Neuroscience and Social Sciences

We all have habits. Some are useful automatic actions that we can do without thinking about, like pressing the start button on our coffee maker while still half asleep and bleary-eyed. Habitual behavior is routine and automatic, frequently initiated by a cue or change in a situation.

Sometimes, habits don't hold up, like the morning after you buy a new coffee maker with a new button, and have to think about where it is in order to press it. Starting the new coffee maker is a goal-directed action. Goal-directed actions, which are done to seek a reward, require decision making which takes time and energy.

The ability to flexibly switch between the two is an important response strategy, critical for behavior that adapts to situations. 

The infralimbic prefrontal...

The Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) is a quick, 10-question test that attempts to objectify an inherently subjective topic: depression. You can take the test here.

Each question asks about your mental health and various behaviors over the past two weeks. Based on your response, you receive a score of 0-3 for each question. At the end of the test, the responses are tallied and a "depression score" is assigned as follows:

0-4: None or minimal
5-9: Mild
10-14: Moderate
15-19: Moderately severe
20-27: Severe

The test is far from comprehensive. It does not, for instance, ask about...

Graduate school can be extremely tough on students.

Grad students in the sciences are often expected to put in 50- or 60-hour weeks in the laboratory. (One professor boasted to me that he worked 80-hour weeks when he was in grad school.) Some professors are notoriously demanding and mercurial, expecting students to be in the lab on weekends and on holidays. Writing dissertations and other papers is an endless back-and-forth of often nit-picky edits.

It goes without saying that grad students are also poor. But, they are told that if they grind it out for six (or more) years, they will land a sweet gig somewhere in academia. Of course, that's not true. Universities produce far more PhD's than there are...

One of the key pillars of suicide prevention is identifying those at risk of suicide and getting them the counseling or treatment that they need. Typically, this responsibility falls to family, friends, and therapists.

But what about Dr. Google? The Internet is the go-to source of information on everything from stock prices to toenail fungus cures. As it turns out, people who are contemplating suicide turn to Google, as well.

Vincent Chandler, a professor at St. Mary's University, searched Google Trends for the popularity of suicide-related searches from 2006 to 2014. He included terms such as "suicide kill myself" and "suicide want to die," but excluded terms like "Suicide Squad," a popular comic that was turned into a movie in 2016. Then, he linked these search terms to...

Along with the projected increase in the number of elderly people over the next few decades, we can also expect an increase in the ailments that bedevil them — and few are as concerning as Alzheimer's Disease and other forms of dementia. According to the US Census, in 2014 about 15 percent of the US population was 65 years old or older. That percentage is expected to reach about 24 percent by 2060 and as the population grows so will the number of people in that age group.

 Several types of actions that people can take to prevent or delay dementia have been touted, primarily as a result of epidemiological studies. These include regular exercise, prescription medications, cognitive...

Person-centered counseling is one of the most popular treatments for mental health problems. Often just shortened to “counseling”, the approach focuses on how patients view themselves in the here and now, rather than how a therapist interprets their unconscious thoughts. And the patient takes the lead in finding solutions to their own problems.

This “humanistic” form of therapy was developed by Carl Rogers in the 1940s and is now one of three main mental health treatments, alongside cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychodynamic therapy. However, despite its popularity and longevity, counseling doesn’t appear to make people better in the long term.

Mental health issues are a huge global problem. The World Health Organisation estimates that between...

There is a fascinating article in Psychophysiology entitled "I can feel my heartbeat: Dancers have increased interoceptive accuracy."

Let’s begin with a definition of interoceptive: it is the sense we have of ourselves based upon our bodily perceptions. Our metaphorical speech provide good examples, “He makes my skin crawl,” or “my gut response.” The authors are trying to advance an argument about our conscious perceptions. It is an ancient discussion, and the ascendant position has been, “I think therefore I am” – that our perceptions of reality come from our brain.

There is another school of thought, a belief in the embodied consciousness, that suggests that our thoughts are limited by our bodily perceptions. What struck me the most is how difficult it is to...

It's hardly a secret that men (in a Western culture, at least) find women with long legs attractive. That's one reason why female models are usually wearing high heels. What is less obvious is that the reverse also appears to be true: Even after controlling for height, women find men with slightly longer legs than average to be more attractive.

The researchers, who are psychologists at the University of Cambridge, recruited online 74 heterosexual female participants aged 20 to 69. Each woman was shown 28 images, one at a time, and was asked to rate attractiveness on a scale from 1 (not attractive) to 7 (very attractive). As shown in the left-hand figure below, all male images were the same height. The only difference in each set of figures was the leg-to-body ratio.


Say you're a man in a committed, loving relationship and you spot a saucy minx making eyes at you. Turns out, you may not be terribly susceptible to her batting lashes if she's at apex of her fertility cycle – or so says science. 

The issue of monogamy in homo sapiens has been questioned when one observes behaviors in the animal kingdom.  With exceptions, it is the male that is wandering off, spreading his seed and propagating his progeny. From an evolution standpoint, it may behoove the male not to place all his proverbial eggs in one basket.  New research from the Department of Psychology at the University of Haifa in Israel, dispels this view. 

In a study, published in Scientific Reports, researchers conducted experiments, based on previous research...

McDonald's. Dell. Chrysler. Rolls-Royce. Sears. Trump. All are companies that bear the names of their founders. Does that matter? One would think not, as Shakespeare told us, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

But new research published in the American Economic Review begs to differ. The authors, all from Duke University, claim that eponymous companies (i.e., companies named after their founders) are more successful than others.

In contrast to Shakespeare, the authors had a different hypothesis: A founder who names a company after himself is sending a signal to the market. That signal, essentially, is: "I'm such an incredibly talented person, that I guarantee my firm will succeed. To prove I mean what I say, I'm going to put my name and reputation...