Study: Word sounds contain clues for language learners

“This summer, Christiansen organized a symposium at a conference in Montreal where evidence showed that some systematic sound-to-meaning correspondences do exist. For instance, toddlers consistently matched rounded vowels, such as “koko,” to rounded shapes and non-rounded vowels, such as “kiki,” to jagged shapes.

“Such systematic relationships between sound and meaning make it easier to figure out what the rough meaning of a word is,” said Christiansen. “So, from a learning perspective, it’s paradoxical that most words have an arbitrary sound-to-meaning relationship.”

A study published by Christiansen and two colleagues in the August : General provides new insight into this paradox. They uncovered a trade-off between arbitrariness and “systematicity” within the sound of words.”

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The Power of Negative Thinking

“Can our expectations for the future change how we remember the past? According to a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, they can—we remember unpleasant experiences more negatively if we expect to endure them again.

Researchers at New York University and Carnegie Mellon University conducted seven experiments to determine how people’s expectations shape their memories. In one test, they exposed 30 students to the noise of a vacuum cleaner for 40 seconds. Afterward, half were told they would have to hear the noise again, whereas the rest were told the study was over. Everyone was then asked to rate how irritated they were by the noise. Students who expected to hear it again consistently found it more irritating. Other tests involving stimuli that bored and annoyed subjects all yielded the same results.

Jeff Galak, a Carnegie Mellon behavioral sci­entist who worked on the study, suggests that we remember hardships as worse than they actually were so that when we face those experiences again, they will be less painful than we expect. Galak thinks that by understanding this “bracing” strategy individuals can learn to overcome it and stop fearing exaggerated pain. He acknowledges that doing so may backfire, however—it is possible, he says, that by bracing for the worst, we actually suffer less.”

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Smoking experience modulates the cortical integration of vision and haptics (Study)

“Abstract. Human neuroplasticity of multisensory integration has been studied mainly in the context of natural or artificial training situations in healthy subjects. However, regular smokers also offer the opportunity to assess the impact of intensive daily multisensory interactions with smoking-related objects on the neural correlates of crossmodal object processing.
The present functional magnetic resonance imaging study revealed that smokers show a comparable visuo-haptic integration pattern for both smoking paraphernalia and control objects in the left lateral occipital complex, a region playing a crucial role in crossmodal object recognition. Moreover, the degree of nicotine dependence correlated positively with the magnitude of visuo-haptic integration in the left lateral occipital complex (LOC) for smoking-associated but not for control objects. In contrast, in the left LOC non-smokers displayed a visuo-haptic integration pattern for control objects, but not for smoking paraphernalia.

This suggests that prolonged smoking-related multisensory experiences in smokers facilitate the merging of visual and haptic inputs in the lateral occipital complex for the respective stimuli. Studying clinical populations who engage in compulsive activities may represent an ecologically valid approach to investigating the neuroplasticity of multisensory integration.”


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Chinese-English bilinguals are ‘automatic’ translators (Study)

Interesting experiment set up:
English word pairs were shown to the participants.
“The first word flashed on the computer screen so quickly (for just 59 milliseconds) that the person didn’t realise they had seen it. The second word appeared for longer; the person was supposed to hit a key indicating whether it was a real English word as quickly as possible. This was simply a test to see how quickly they were processing the word.
Although everything in the test was in English, in some cases, the two words actually had a connection – but only if you know how they’re written in Chinese. So, for example, the first word might be ‘thing’ which is written 东西 in Chinese, and the second might be ‘west’ which is written 西 in Chinese. The character for ‘west’ appears in the word ‘thing’ but these two words are totally unrelated in English.

Zhang found that, when two words shared characters in Chinese, participants processed the second word faster – even though they had no conscious knowledge of having seen the first word in the pair. Even though these students are fluent in English, their brains still automatically translate what they see into Chinese. This suggests that knowledge of a first language automatically influences the processing of a second language, even when they are very different, unrelated languages.”

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Conformity does not equal cooperation (Study)

“The study, published in the August issue of the journal Personality and Individual Differences, shows that people who do not conform are most likely to work together for the greater good, while conforming to social norms can actually make people less likely to co-operate – a finding which surprised the researchers and could have implication.”

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Neuropsychoanalysis in the Scanner, Part 2 – Siegel and discussion

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Vittorio Gallese, Part 1:From Mirror Neurons to Embodied Simulation-Neuropsychoanalysis Lecture Series

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For my eyes only: Gaze control, enmeshment, and relationship quality (Study)

“Perceived closeness that preserves the distinctness of each partner enhances intimate relationship quality, whereas pseudocloseness or enmeshment—reflecting an inability to distinguish one’s own thoughts and emotions from a partner’s—may have more negative outcomes (R. J. Green & P. D. Werner, 1996).
Two studies investigated whether a dispositional inability to differentiate self from other is manifested at the attentional level as reduced capacity to inhibit following the gaze of another (A. Frischen, A. P. Bayliss, & S. P. Tipper, 2007).

Among healthy elderly spouses in Study 1, superior gaze control predicted superior sociocognitive functioning, and those with poorer gaze control abilities were perceived by the partner as constricting the perceiving partner’s autonomy, which in turn predicted lower relationship satisfaction among the latter. Moreover, these links were mediated by enmeshment, as indicated by the percentage of “we”-focused versus “I”- or partner-focused thoughts and emotions in the partners’ independent accounts of the same relationship events.

Extending these findings in a sample of Parkinson’s disease patients and their spouses, Study 2 revealed a biphasic effect of self–other differentiation on relationship dynamics: In the early stages of the disease, increased couple focus promoted superior relationship quality, whereas lack of self–other differentiation predicted poorer relationship quality later. Thus, dispositional variations in fundamental social-perceptual processes predict both close relationship dynamics and long-term relationship quality.”

Petrican, Raluca; Burris, Christopher T.; Bielak, Tania; Schimmack, Ulrich; Moscovitch, Morris.
For my eyes only: Gaze control, enmeshment, and relationship quality.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2011  Volume 100, Issue 6 (Jun).
Pages 1111-1123
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Spurious? Name similarity effects (implicit egotism) in marriage, job, and moving decisions (Study)

“Three articles published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology have shown that a disproportionate share of people choose spouses, places to live, and occupations with names similar to their own. These findings, interpreted as evidence of implicit egotism, are included in most modern social psychology textbooks and many university courses.

The current article successfully replicates the original findings but shows that they are most likely caused by a combination of cohort, geographic, and ethnic confounds as well as reverse causality. ”

Simonsohn, Uri.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
2011  Volume 101, Issue 1 (Jul).

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(Embodiment) Grounding cultural syndromes: Body comportment and values in honor and dignity cultures (Study)

“The body is a carrier of relatively complex cultural values. Three experiments examined links between body comportment and honor (a cultural syndrome prizing female chastity, familial loyalty, and reputation).
We put participants from nonhonor (Anglo-Americans; Experiment 1) and honor (Latinos; Experiment 2) cultures in upright versus slouched postures and primed them with honor versus control words.
In our third experiment, we surveyed participants from nonhonor (native Dutch) and honor (Arab and Turkish Dutch) cultures about their attitudes toward honor-related violence and then measured posture change.

Concerns with honor were embodied by men from honor cultures bi-directionally.

For persons from nonhonor cultures, body posture can be connected to honor concerns, if participants are appropriately primed.

However, with all else equal, the rejection of honor in such cultures is embodied in much the same way that men from honor cultures embody honor. Links between body comportment and values are not arbitrary but not simple either. The ways embodiments are conditioned by culture and gender are discussed.”

Grounding cultural syndromes: Body comportment and values in honor and dignity cultures. Hans IJzerman,Dov Cohen.
European Journal of Social Psychology,
Special Issue: The Centrality of Social Image in Social Psychology.
Volume 41, Issue 4, pages 468–478, June 2011
Article first published online: 15 JUN 2011.
DOI: 10.1002/ejsp.806
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Effects of face experience on emotions and self-esteem in Japanese culture (Study)

“Face plays an important role in social life. However, little is known about the psychological consequences of an individual’s face experiences. This study examined the effects of face experiences on emotions and self-esteem in a diary study conducted in Japanese culture, in which face functions as a mechanism to maintain interpersonal harmony. Participants reported the occurrence of face-related events, maintenance/loss of face, emotions and self-esteem twice a week for 10 weeks.

We predicted and found that
(1) the occurrence of one’s own face events increased participants’ depressiveness,
(2) the maintenance of one’s own face heightened joyfulness and decreased depressiveness, (3) the maintenance of one’s own face heightened participants’ self-esteem, and
(4) the maintenance of other people’s face increased joyfulness and calmness but did not affect self-esteem.
These findings provided empirical supports for fundamental assumptions that have never been subjected to empirical scrutiny in face research.”

Chun-Chi Lin, Susumu Yamaguchi.
European Journal of Social Psychology,
Special Issue: The Centrality of Social Image in Social Psychology,
Volume 41, Issue 4, pages 446–455, June 2011.
Article first published online: 15 JUN 2011.
DOI: 10.1002/ejsp.817

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Ritualized Interaction for the Advancement of Children’s National Identification in Hong Kong (Study)

“Both ongoing practice and the theory of interaction ritual chains imply the significance of the contribution that ritual makes to group solidarity, such as national identification. This contribution is in need of empirical examination as in this study, which surveyed 1,788 schoolchildren in Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China. The results show that, controlling for earlier national identification behavior (within the previous year) and other predictors, ritualized interaction in an activity for national cause (within the previous 6 months) manifested both linear and quadratic positive effects on current national identification sentiment. The effect was stronger for children who previously displayed lower national identification behavior. These results favor the use of ritual to promote national identification.”

Ritualized Interaction for the Advancement of Children’s National Identification in Hong Kong. CHAU-KIU CHEUNG,JESSICA CHI-MEI LI.
Journal of Applied Social Psychology, Volume 41, Issue 6, pages 1486–1513, June 2011.
Article first published online: 21 JUN 2011.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.2011.00760.x
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Seeing love, or seeing lust: How people interpret ambiguous romantic situations (Study)

“Interpreting ambiguous situations is a task individuals face on a daily basis. In romantic contexts the accurate interpretation of these situations is of particular importance. In the present set of studies we investigated how level of construal guides individual perception in these cases.

When a high level of construal was induced participants likely interpreted a given interpersonal situation as the start or the continuation of a long lasting relationship.

When a low level of construal was induced the same situations were more likely interpreted as leading to a one-night stand (in a dating situation) or involving little chance of a common future for both actors (in a break-up situation).

In sum, the present studies demonstrate construal level to be a crucial determinant of the interpretation of ambiguous romantic situations. We discuss these findings in relation to the functional independence of love and sex, level of construal, and social perception.”

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
Volume 47, Issue 5, September 2011, Pages 1017-1020
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Eye’m lovin’ it! The role of gazing awareness in mimetic desires (Study)

“Recent studies showed that people evaluate objects more favorably when these objects are gazed-at by others, an effect coined as “mimetic desire”. In two studies, we tested whether mimetic desire stems from an automatic form of learning by examining one dimension of automaticity, i.e., people’s awareness of the object-gaze association. Participants saw 6 neutral art paintings associated with a female gazing toward two of the paintings, away from two of the paintings, and closing her eyes with respect to the last two paintings. After the exposition phase, participants evaluated the paintings and performed a contingency-awareness test. Importantly, participants’ responses on this test were genuinely driven by memory and not by inferences from liking. Results show that participants preferred objects that were gazed-at but only when they were aware of the object-gaze association. Hence, despite the adaptive function of joint attention, its impact on valence acquisition does not seem to qualify as an implicit learning process.”

Clémentine Bry, Evelyne Treinen, Olivier Corneille  and Vincent Yzerbyt.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology,
Volume 47, Issue 5, September 2011, Pages 987-993

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The Then and Now of Memory (NYT article)

“The recordings, taken from the brains of people awaiting surgery for epilepsy, suggest that new memories of even abstract facts — an Italian verb, for example — are encoded in a brain-cell firing sequence that also contains information about what else was happening during and just before the memory was formed, whether a tropical daydream or frustration with the Mets. The new study suggests that memory is like a streaming video that is bookmarked, both consciously and subconsciously, by facts, scenes, characters and thoughts.”

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PTSD treatment and visual neurofeedback

“Military doctors have added a new technique to their arsenal of treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Neurofeedback, a therapy that practitioners claim can reboot the brain’s neural networks, has been introduced at several bases, VA clinics and even in Iraq and Afghanistan. But despite heartening success stories, some experts question whether the approach has undergone adequate study to prove that it’s more than just a potent placebo.”

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Your best defense against advertising may be your unconscious mind (Study in PT)

“A recent study by Juliano Laran and colleagues suggests that people automatically activate a defensive system whenever they detect persuasive intent. The work builds on some fascinating results involving commercial brands in a phenomenon known as implicit priming, in which a seemingly irrelevant word or image can trigger behaviors that are somehow associated with that stimulus. For example, previous work has shown that subliminally flashing the Apple logo can spur study participants to think more creatively, and that presenting a Walmart logo can encourage frugal behavior whereas presenting a Nordstrom logo leads to greater indulgence. In other words, the brands activate a set of associations that in turn trigger certain behavioral goals. […]

But brands, argue Laran and colleagues, are different from other commercial messages in that they’re not necessarily perceived as inherently persuasive—at one level, they’re simply identifiers of a particular product, equivalent to say, your name. But slogans are transparently persuasive. Perhaps people react to these in reverse-psychology manner by blocking and even countering the typical brand associations.

The researchers found that when they had people look at cost-conscious brand names like Walmart in an alleged memory study, and then take part in an imaginary shopping task, they were able to replicate the implicit priming effect: people were willing to spend quite a bit less than if they’d seen luxury-brand logos. But when people saw slogans instead of the brand names, there was a reverse priming effect: now, the luxury brand slogans triggered more penny-pinching behavior than the economy-brand slogans.

The reverse-psychology effect really does seem to hinge on detecting the persuasive intent on the message. In another version of the study, if people were told to focus on the creativity of the slogans (presumably making their persuasive intent less “visible”), the reverse effect evaporated, and they now treated them just as they had the brand names;
that is, the economy-brand slogans led to less spending than the slogans for luxury brands. And if the persuasive nature of brands was highlighted, the brand names triggered the reverse priming effect, just as the slogans had previously.”

see article

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Music Changes Perception, Research Shows (Study in ScienceDaily)

“Music and mood are closely interrelated — listening to a sad or happy song on the radio can make you feel more sad or happy. However, such mood changes not only affect how you feel, they also change your perception. For example, people will recognize happy faces if they are feeling happy themselves. […]
The latter finding is particularly interesting according to the researchers. Jolij: ‘Seeing things that are not there is the result of top-down processes in the brain. Conscious perception is largely based on these top-down processes: your brain continuously compares the information that comes in through your eyes with what it expects on the basis of what you know about the world. The final result of this comparison process is what we eventually experience as reality. Our research results suggest that the brain builds up expectations not just on the basis of experience but on your mood as well.'”

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The Channels of Emotion: Not (Just) in the Face! (Study, in PsychYourMind)

“In this work, participants never speak to each other, and are brought into a large experiment room separated by a curtain. One of the participants is then asked to reach their hand onto the other side of the curtain. The other participant is then asked to deliver physical touch to the extended hand of their partner with the goal of conveying specific emotions to the partner through touch.

Amazingly, people can also reliably and accurately recognize specific emotions expressed through touch in this paradigm. Moreover, certain emotions that people typically can’t recognize very well in the face–such as compassion or empathy–are actually very accurately expressed through touch!”

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Color Red Increases the Speed and Strength of Reactions (Study)

“A new study, published in the latest issue of the journal Emotion, finds that when humans see red, their reactions become both faster and more forceful. And people are unaware of the color’s intensifying effect. […]
“Color affects us in many ways depending on the context,” explains Elliot, whose research also has documented how men and women are unconsciously attracted to the opposite sex when they wear red. “Those color effects fly under our awareness radar,” he says. […]

In both scenarios, red significantly increased the force exerted, with participants in the red condition squeezing with greater maximum force than those in the gray or blue conditions. In the handgrip experiment, not only the amount of force, but also the immediacy of the reaction increased when red was present.”

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