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Climate change has arrived. Greenhouse gases are accumulating. The planet and its oceans are warming. Glaciers and Arctic ice are retreating. The seas are rising. Extreme weather is becoming ever costlier—in money and in lives. The warming Arctic and its wavier jet stream even help explain the recent polar vortex. If such threats came from a looming alien invasion, our response would be bipartisan and robust, notes Farhad Manjoo.

 

Even so, the U.S. government has

  • pulled out of the Paris Agreement on climate change,
  • plans to lift CO2 restrictions on coal-generated power,
  • weakened auto fuel-economy and emissions standards,
  • cut NASA climate monitoring,
  • increased off-shore oil and gas drilling, and
  • reduced clean-energy research and development.

 

So why, given the accumulating science, is the Trump administration apparently unconcerned about climate change as a weapon of mass destruction?

 

Surely the availability heuristic—the coloring of our judgments by mentally available events and images—is partly to blame. Climate change is imperceptibly slow, without a just noticeable difference from one month to the next. What’s cognitively more available is our recent local weather.

 

Thus, hot days increase people’s beliefs in global warming—as Australians understand after their recent scorching hot summer. And cold weather decreases concern—as vividly illustrated when U.S. Senator James Inhofe, during a 2015 cold spell, ridiculed global warming claims by bringing a snowball to the U.S. Senate. (Is it really so hard to grasp the distinction between local weather and global climate? We do manage, when feeling cold air on opening our refrigerator, not to misjudge our whole-house temperature.)

 

 (C-Span [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.)

President Trump has echoed Inhofe with dozens of tweets that similarly generalize from local weather:

 

 

Such wisdom brings to mind my favorite Stephen Colbert tweet:

 

The availability heuristic’s upside is that extreme weather experiences, as well as climate science, are driving growing public concern. Drought-caused wildfires, floods, and brutal heat waves have a silver lining. After surviving Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey residents expressed increased environmentalism. And today, 74 percent of Americans say that the last five years’ extreme weather has influenced their climate change opinions.

 

Ergo, Americans by a 5-to-1 margin now agree that global warming is happening. By a 3-to-1 margin they believe it is human-caused. Seven in 10 now say that they are at least “somewhat worried” about climate change. And globally, across 26 countries, two-thirds of people see it as a “major threat” to their country. “The evidence the climate is changing is becoming so overwhelming people are seeing it in their regions and in their lives,” says the Obama science advisor, John Holdren. “We are really to the point where we’re seeing bodies in the street from severe flooding and severe wildfires.”

 

With vivid and mentally available weather tragedies occurring more often, more folks are noticing and caring. Last month, 3300 economists—including 27 Nobel laureates and all former Federal Reserve Board chairs—signed a consensus statement supporting a revenue-neutral carbon tax as the most effective climate change solution. Although the Green New Deal proposed by progressive Democrats may be more aspirational than achievable, its existence—together with the increasing climate concern of youth and young adults, and the growth in low-carbon energy sources—gives hope for a greener future.

 

(For David Myers’ other essays on psychological science and everyday life visit TalkPsych.com.)

You can buy a good pair of bone conduction headphones for under $150. Some of your students may have seen them or own a set. Here’s a little information to add to your next Intro Psych hearing lecture, or at least some information to hold onto in case a student asks. If you teach Biopsych, you can dig even deeper into this topic – or have your students do the digging.

 

Bone conduction headphones, such as Aftershokz Trekz Air, send vibrations through, well, bone. The headphones speakers are generally positioned against the cheek bone or upper jaw bone right in front of each ear. The cheek bones carry the vibrations through to the temporal bone – the bone that surrounds the cochlea. While the specifics are still under investigation, we know that these vibrations cause the cochlear fluid to move, triggering the cilia that send their messages to the auditory cortex where we hear sound. It could be that the bone vibrations cause the fluid in the cochlea to move due to a change in pressure, the vibrations in the bone put pressure on the walls of the cochlea causing them to compress, or the vibrations in the bone could cause waves in the cerebrospinal fluid in the skull thereby causing waves in the cochlea (Dauman, 2013). Or all three.

 

All of those routes explain how someone with middle ear damage can hear through bone conduction. The vibrations bypass the bones of the middle ear and affect the cochlea directly. Bone conduction hearing devices (previously called bone anchored hearing aids) are for people with issues with their outer or middle ears. These devices can either be surgically implanted with a speaker attached by magnet or just temporarily attached with adhesive (Hearing Link, 2017).

The vibrations produced by bone conduction headphones also cause vibrations in the skin and cartilage of the outer ear as well as vibrations in the temporal bone of the skull. Those vibrations cause air to move in the outer ear, triggering the bones of the middle ear to move, and so on, resulting in sound. This may not contribute much to what we hear through bone conduction, but it contributes more if we wear ear plugs with our bone conduction headphones. That brings us to the occlusion effect (Dauman, 2013).

 

While you may not be familiar with the occlusion effect (I wasn’t), everyone with some amount of hearing has experienced it. While talking, plug your ears with your fingers. Your voice will sound up to 20 decibels louder (Ross, 2004).  

 

We hear our own voices through bone conduction. With our outer ears open, the vibrations that come through the bone can vibrate on out through the outer ear. With our outer ears plugged, the vibrations cannot escape and so reverberate back through the middle ear, amplifying our voices. This is one of the reasons some people don’t like (unvented) earmold hearing aids; they completely block the ear canal making our voice sound funny (Ross, 2004). Most earmold hearing aids now come with a vent – an opening that allows the vibrations caused by our voices to escape.

 

Why use bone conduction headphones?

 

There are several advantages to using bone conduction headphones (Banks, 2019).

 

If you are walking, running, or biking on the open road, bone conduction headphones allow you to listen to your tunes without blocking your ear canal. You’ll have a greater chance of hearing that car coming up behind you, but, of course, all of the research on attention tells us that you still may not attend to the sound of the car. Or you may not hear the car at all if the sound of it is masked by whatever you’re listening to through your headphones (May & Walker, 2017). In terms of this sort of safety, bone conduction headphones are likely not worse than any other kind of headphone or speaker (Granados, Hopper, & He, 2018).

 

If you use earmold hearing aids, you can use bone conduction headphones with them.

 

If you are a scuba diver, you can use a bone conduction microphone and headphones to both speak and listen underwater (see for example Logosease).

 

If you have tinnitus, bone conduction headphones can provide auditory stimulation to the cochlea that may reduce tinnitus while allowing you to still have a conversation in, say, a work environment (British Tinnitus Association, n.d.; Schweitzer, 2018), although the research here is scant (Manning, Mermagen, & Scharine, 2017).

 

Can bone conduction headphones produce hearing loss when listening at loud volumes just like regular headphones can?

 

After scouring journals and reading opinions from all corners of the internet, my conclusion, pending further evidence, is a tentative and cautious affirmative; bone conduction headphones can cause hearing loss. Anything that can produce loud sounds, including regular headphones cranked up to a high volume, causes hearing loss by producing tsunamis that damage the cilia in the cochlea. Since bone conduction headphones are also causing waves in the cochlea, it stands to reason that waves caused by bone conduction could also reach tsunami strength. But, then again, maybe bone conduction cannot produce those kind of waves. Some research here would be nice. If you know of any, please let me know!

 

References

Banks, L. (2019). Best bone conduction headphones of 2019: A complete guide. Retrieved February 11, 2019, from https://www.everydayhearing.com/hearing-technology/articles/bone-conduction-headphones/

British Tinnitus Association. (n.d.). Sound therapy (sound enrichment). Retrieved February 11, 2019, from https://www.tinnitus.org.uk/sound-therapy

Dauman, R. (2013). Bone conduction : An explanation for this phenomenon comprising complex mechanisms. European Annals of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Diseases, 130(4), 209–213. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anorl.2012.11.002

Granados, J., Hopper, M., & He, J. (2018). A usability and safety study of bone-conduction headphones during driving while listening to audiobooks. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting, 62(1).

Hearing Link. (2017). Bone conduction hearing devices. Retrieved February 11, 2019, from https://www.hearinglink.org/your-hearing/implants/bone-conduction-hearing-devices/

Manning, C., Mermagen, T., & Scharine, A. (2017). The effect of sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus on speech recognition over air and bone conduction military communications headsets. Hearing Research, 349, 67–75.

May, K., & Walker, B. N. (2017). The effects of distractor sounds presented through bone conduction headphones on the localization of critical environmental sounds. Applied Ergonomics, 61, 144–158.

Ross, M. (2004). Dr. Ross on hearing loss. Retrieved February 11, 2019, from http://www.hearingresearch.org/ross/hearing_loss/the_occlusion_effect.php

Schweitzer, G. (2018). Bone conduction headphones for hearing loss and tinnitus. Retrieved February 11, 2019, from https://rewiringtinnitus.com/trekz-titanium-bone-conduction-headphones/

Democracy presumes civic wisdom. When voters grasp truth, when facts prevail over misinformation, prudence prevails. When the electorate understands what actually advances (and threatens) human flourishing, it can inaugurate sensible policies and elect benevolent leaders. The collective wisdom of the cognizant is more astute than an autocrat’s whims.

 

Alas, as the late Hans Rosling amply documents in Factfulness, too often the crowd is unwise. Ignorance reigns. Even with this forewarning, consider:

  • What percent of the world’s 1-year-olds have had a vaccination?
  • What percent of humanity lives in extreme poverty (<$2/day)?
  • What percent of humanity is literate (able to read and write)?

 

The factual answers—86 percent, 9 percent, and 86 percent, respectively—differ radically from Americans’ perceptions. Their vaccination estimate: 35 percent. And though extreme poverty has plummeted and literacy has soared, most don’t know that. More than people suppose, world health, education, and prosperity have improved (as Steven Pinker further documents in Enlightenment Now).

 

Such public ignorance—compounded by the overconfidence phenomenon (people’s tendency to be more confident than correct)—often undermines civic wisdom. When year after year 7 in 10 adults tell Gallup there has been more crime than in the prior year—despite plummeting violent and property crime rates—then fear-mongering politicians may triumph. Our ignorance matters when horrific but infinitesimally rare incidents of domestic terrorism, school shootings, and air crashes hijack our consciousness. We and our children will not only disproportionately fear the wrong things, we will then risk more lives by extreme public spending to avoid these frightening things—to, say, block the “vicious predators and bloodthirsty killers” supposedly pouring across our southern border, rather than to mitigate climate change and more extreme weather.

 

In the aftermath of anti-immigrant fear-stoking (“They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”), many people do fear immigrants. Americans are, reports Gallup, “five times more likely to say immigrants make [crime] worse rather than better (45% to 9%, respectively).” Roused by anecdotes of vicious immigrant crime, “Build the wall!” becomes a rallying cry—despite, as the conservative Cato Institute freshly documents, a lower crime rate among immigrants than among native-born Americans.

 

 

And what do you think: Is eating genetically modified (GM) food safe? “Yes,” say 37 percent of U.S. adults and 88 percent of American Association for the Advancement of Science members. Moreover, the people most opposed to GM foods are (according to a new study) those who are most ignorant about them.

 

As the famed Dunning-Kruger effect reminds us, ignorance and incompetence can, ironically, feed overconfidence. Ignorant of my ignorance—and thus prone to a smug overconfidence—I am blissfully unaware of all the possible Scrabble words I fail to see . . . which enables me to think myself verbally adept. We are, as Daniel Kahneman has said, often “blind to our blindness.”

 

The result is sometimes a theater of the absurd. A December 2015 Public Policy Polling survey asked Donald Trump supporters if they favored or opposed bombing Agrabah. Among the half with an opinion, there was 4 to 1 support (41 percent to 9 percent) for dropping bombs on Agrabah . . . the fictional country from Aladdin.

 

But ignorance needn’t be permanent. Education can train us to recognize how errors and biases creep into our thinking. Education also makes us less gullible—less vulnerable to belief in conspiracy theories. Teach people to think critically—with a mix of open-minded curiosity, evidence-seeking skepticism, and intellectual humility—and they will think . . . and vote . . . smarter. Ignorance matters. But education works.

 

(For David Myers’ other essays on psychological science and everyday life visit TalkPsych.com.)

If you want an entire country, state, province, territory, or city to stop ingesting certain consumables, you tax them. “Sin taxes” are applied to things like alcohol and cigarettes. The goal is to make these goods so expensive to purchase, people will stop purchasing them. Or, for those who continue to consume them, the tax they pay can go toward the public health coffers.

 

The U.S. federal government, for example, has a tax of about $1.01 on each pack of cigarettes (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, 2017). Each U.S. state/territory can add their own tax on top of that. The national average is $1.79/pack with a low of $.17 (Missouri) and a high of $5.10 (Puerto Rico) (Boonn, 2018). Finally, cities can add their own taxes. New York City, for example, adds a $1.50 tax. If you want to buy a pack of cigarettes in New York City, you’re tax is $1.01 (federal) plus $4.35 (state) plus $1.50 (city) for a total of $6.86 (Mathias, 2017). And, then, of course, is the cost of the cigarettes themselves.

 

Do sin taxes work? Does this added cost reduce consumption of tobacco?

 

Using a list of tobacco taxes in the U.S. (Boonn, 2018) and a list of smoking rates in the U.S. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018), I ran the correlation: -.42. The higher the tax, the lower the smoking rates. Of course, correlation does not mean causation. Do higher taxes cause people to smoke less? Or is it the other way around? Are people in states where people smoke less more likely to vote for higher taxes on cigarettes? Or is there some third variable(s) that affect both the cigarette tax and the smoking rate?

 

It doesn’t answer the question of causation, but the World Health Organization reported on interesting longitudinal data from South Africa (WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic, 2008). When the tax was high, cigarette purchasing was low. From the mid-1980s through the late 1990s, South Africa reduced the tax, and gradually the cigarette purchasing rates climbed. In the late 1990s when they started raising the tax again, cigarette purchasing rates declined again.

 

If “sin taxes” cause us to reduce our purchasing of “sin” products, then operant conditioning offers an explanation why. If a product costs a lot of money to purchase, we’ll be less likely to purchase it – especially if we are not financially well-off. Punishment is defined as anything that reduces a behavior. High prices are, well, punitive. Or at least that’s the idea. For a six tax to be punitive, the amount of additional tax has to be enough for us to actually reduce the behavior, i.e. stop purchasing the product. What that amount is for you may be different than what it is for me. For a 1-pack-a-day smoker in New York City, they’re paying $6.86 in tax alone for that pack of cigarettes. If they make $14.00 an hour, one half hour of work goes toward that cigarette tax. Every day. I wouldn’t be surprised if that smoker quite smoking, or at least reduced how much they smoke. For a different 1-pack-a-day smoker who makes $150 an hour, that $6.86 in tax doesn’t hurt so much. They can make that amount of money in less than 3 minutes. Every day.

 

This is the discussion in Seattle right now around a year-old sugary drink tax. In the city, each sugary drink is assessed a $.0175 per ounce tax. That 16 ounce Coke you are buying with your lunch is now $0.28 more. “The city predicted the tax would cut soda consumption by 40 percent. But through the first nine months, the tax is generating revenues at a rate 52 percent higher than predicted — suggesting it’s possible it may be having no effect on Seattleites’ soda appetites whatsoever.” One possibility is that most of the city residents are making enough money that that $0.28 isn’t even felt (Westneat, 2018).  Like the rest of the city, that $0.28 is not going to stand between me and my Coke.*

 

Here’s a quick classroom demonstration. Ask students to think about their favorite beverage. How much more would their drink have to cost for them to reduce how much they buy? Start at $0.25 and raise it by $0.10, then another $0.10, and so on. Ask students to raise their hands when the additional cost hits the point when they buy less of it and to keep their hands up until everyone has their hands in the air (or use clickers – “vote A when we hit your no-go tax.”)

 

Reiterate that punishment is only punishment if it reduces the behavior. What that punishment point is differs by person.

 

The other thing that punishment does is make us good at avoiding punishment. You shouldn’t be surprised to hear that there is a thriving black market for cigarettes in New York City. Of these smuggled packs of cigarettes, 30.9% have no state stamp; 44.7% carry a Virginia stamp where the state tax is $0.30 per pack, well-below the New York State/New York City combined tax of $5.85 (Mathias, 2017). If the tax is too high, people will find ways to not pay it.

 

Conclude this part of your lecture by emphasizing the importance of understanding the principles of operant conditioning. From their pets to their dating partners/spouses to their children to the population of a city, state/province/territory, or country, operant conditioning is at work.

 

*Actually, I haven’t had a full-sugar Coke in years, but if they similarly taxed Diet Coke or Coke Zero, I’d have no problem paying that $0.28. Don’t tell the Seattle City Council.

 

References

 

Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. (2017). Federal excise tax increase and related provisions. Retrieved February 3, 2019, from https://www.ttb.gov/main_pages/schip-summary.shtml

 

Boonn, A. (2018). State cigarette excise tax rates and rankings. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from https://www.tobaccofreekids.org/assets/factsheets/0097.pdf

 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Map of cigarette use among adults. Retrieved February 3, 2019, from https://www.cdc.gov/statesystem/cigaretteuseadult.html

 

Mathias, C. (2017). Inside New York City’s dangerous, multimillion-dollar cigarette black market. Retrieved February 3, 2019, from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/03/cigarette-smuggling-new-york-_n_5041823.html

 

Westneat, D. (2018). The city’s new soda tax is usurious — and also too low. Retrieved February 3, 2019, from https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/story-of-seattle-the-citys-new-soda-tax-is-usurious-and-also-too-low/

 

WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic. (2008). Geneva, Switzerland.

Time and again I am struck by two robust social science findings.

 

The first, to which social conservatives nod their appreciation, concerns the benefits of successful marriages—which are a substantial predictor of health, longevity, personal happiness, and the well-being of children. An example: As I documented here, U.S. Child Health Surveys have shown that children living with two parents have been half as likely as those living with a never or formerly married mother to have been suspended or expelled from school—even after controlling for variations in race, family size, and parental education and income. To be sure, most single-parented children thrive, and many co-parented children are dysfunctional. Yet show me a place where nearly all children are co-parented by two adults enduringly committed to each other and their children and I will show you a place with relatively low rates of psychological disorder and social pathology. Marriage matters.

 

The second, to which progressives nod their appreciation, is that economic inequality is socially toxic. Places with great inequality have more social pathology—higher rates of crime, anxiety, obesity, and drug use, and lower life expectancy and happiness (see here and here).  Show me a place with great inequality and I will show you a place with a comparatively depressed and dissatisfied populace. Disparity dispirits.

 

Moreover, argues John Hopkins University sociology chair Andrew Cherlin, there is a path between these two oft-confirmed findings: Rising income inequality contributes to family dissolution. As the gap between rich and poor has widened, unstable cohabitations and nonmarital child-bearing have dramatically increased among those with lower incomes—or where men have dim job prospects. In deteriorating job markets, marriage wanes and families become less stable. Moreover, for working single parents, affordable quality child care may be out of reach.

 

Ergo, doesn’t it follow that those who support marriage and stable co-parenting (a typically conservative value) should also be economic progressives—concerned about reducing inequality and poverty? To envision a culture that welcomes children into families with two or more people who love them is to envision an economic environment that nurtures secure families.

 

What do you think: Might this vision of a family-supportive just economy be a meeting place between conservatism and progressivism? And might it be a basis for depolarizing our politics and unifying our aspirations?

 

A glimmer of hope: After writing this essay, I learned of Fox News’ conservative voice, Tucker Carlson, recent lament that “families are being crushed by market forces” . . . to which Dean Baker of the progressive Center for Economic and Policy Research replied: “It’s a bit scary to me how much of this I agree with.”

 

(For David Myers’ other essays on psychological science and everyday life visit TalkPsych.com.)

Shout out to the Society for the Teaching of Psychology Facebook group for sharing their favorite tools for helping students study the brain.

 

Printable black and white images of the brain from Clipart Library (shared by Achu John)

 

Images include the brain, the eye, and the neuron.

 

Use these images as diagrams on your next exam, write on them during your lecture using a document camera, and print them for students to take notes on.

 

This webpage also includes a half-court basketball drawing, an empty times table chart, and a two-circle Venn diagram. I’m not entirely sure how you can use these for teaching brain-related things, but you’ll have them if you need them.

 

3D Brain app for iOS, Android, and web (web version needs Adobe Flash) was produced by the DNA Learning Center at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (shared by Kat West)

 

From the dropdown menu, select the brain area of interest, such as Broca’s area. The image of the brain turns gray with Broca’s area highlighted in purple. A paragraph of text tells us what Broca’s area does and another paragraph gives us a case study. We get some information about associated functions, cognitive disorders, and what we see when Broca’s area is damaged. Three research reviews round out the text. The directional controls in the lower right allow you to rotate the brain image.

 

Use this website during your lecture to show where the brain areas in a three-dimensional space. Students can use it as a study tool. Be aware that the functions associated with each brain area in the 3D Brain likely paints a more complicated picture of how the brain works than your Intro Psych textbook. For example, the amygdala, the 3D Brain tells us, is associated with “fear-processing, emotion processing, learning, fight-or-flight response, and reward-processing,” which is a bit more than the strong emotions-like-anger-and-fear that a lot of Intro Psych textbooks report.

 

Pocket Brain, Brain Anatomy, and Brain and Nervous Anatomy Atlas ($9.99) all for iOS (shared by Susie Veccio); My Brain Anatomy and Brain Tutor 3D

 

Some of these are at a level appropriate for Intro Psych. Others may be more appropriate for a neuroscience course. Take a look at each of them yourself before recommending to your students.

 

Neuroscientifically Challenged videos (shared by Susanne Biehl)

 

"These 2-Minute Neuroscience videos will help you learn the basics of neuroscience in short, easy-to-understand clips."

 

Bonus resources

 

BrainFacts.org (a resource by the Society for Neuroscience) has a webpage for educators.

 

The target audience is K-12, but many of the resources for secondary ed teachers would also work for higher ed.

The website includes a “Find a Neuroscientist” database. “Neuroscientists around the world are eager to help you educate about the brain. Our database has scientists in more than 40 countries. Connect with a scientist in your community today.” Enter your location, and a list of neuroscientists will come up. How to pick one and how they can help you is not clear, but there you go.

 

The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons by science writer Sam Kean

 

This book is a must-read for anyone teaching neuroscience. Each chapter focuses on a different part of the brain. We get the back story on the research, a report on current research findings, and a handful of case studies. Take notes as you read; your neuroscience lectures will be much more compelling. (Read my 2015 book review.)

 

Christina Ragan's Teaching Resources for Biological Psychology and Neuroscience Facebook Group 

 

This is "a a centralized location to share activities, links, readings, videos, etc. on topics related to biology, psychology, and neuroscience." If you're looking for a community for sharing such resources, this is a good one.

 

What are your favorite resources for teaching the brain?

Psychology’s archives are filled with well-meaning, well-funded endeavors that were meant to change lives for the better but that—alas—made no difference.

 

In one huge study, 500 Massachusetts boys deemed at risk for delinquency were, by the toss of a coin, assigned either to a no-intervention control condition or to a 5-year treatment program. In addition to twice-a-month visits from counselors, the boys in the treatment program received academic tutoring, medical attention, and family assistance and were involved in community programs, such as the Boy Scouts. When Joan McCord located 97 percent of the participants some 30 years later, many  offered glowing testimonials: Were it not for the program, “I would probably be in jail”; “My life would have gone the other way”; or “I think I would have ended up in a life of crime.” Indeed, even among “difficult” predelinquent boys, 66 percent developed no juvenile crime record.

 

But the same was true of their control counterparts—70 percent of whom had no juvenile record. Alas, the glowing testimonials had been unintentionally deceiving. The program had no beneficial effect.

 

More recently, other endeavors—the national Scared Straight program to tame teenage violence, the police-promoted D.A.R.E. anti-drug effort, Critical Incident Debriefing for trauma victims, and numerous weight-reduction, pedophile rehabilitation, and sexual reorientation efforts—have also been found ineffectual or even harmful.

 

Is this because genetic influences fix our traits—minimizing our malleability? (Think of the dozens of identical twins who, though raised separately, are still amazingly similar.) To be sure, genes do matter. The most comprehensive review of twin studies—more than 3000 such, encompassing 14.6 million twins—found that “across all traits the reported heritability [individual differences attributable to genes] is 49 percent.” That is substantial, yet it leaves room for willpower, beliefs, and social influence as well. Body weight, for example, is genetically influenced, but diet and exercise also matter.

 

Given the guiding power of our heredity and the failure of many large-scale efforts to help people to flourish, I am stunned by the successes of brief “wise interventions”—“wise” in the sense of being savvy about how our beliefs and assumptions influence us, and “stunned” that a 1-hour intervention sometimes outperforms a 5-year intervention.

 

Two leading researchers, Gregory Walton and Timothy Wilson, recently reviewed 325 interventions. Their conclusion: Helping people reframe the meaning of their experiences can promote their long-term flourishing. As Walton explains at www.wiseinterventions.org, “Wise interventions focus on the meanings and inferences people draw about themselves, other people, or a situation they are in.” Three examples:

  • At-risk middle school students given a “growth mindset”—being taught that the brain, like a muscle, grows with use—achieved better grades because they “saw effort as a virtue, because effort helps to develop ability.”
  • Entering minority college students who experienced a 1-hour session explaining the normality of the worry that they didn’t belong (with reassuring stories from older peers) achieved higher grades over the next 3 years—and greater life and career satisfaction after college.
  • A paraprofessional’s helping at-risk new mothers understand their baby’s fussing reduced the moms’ deciding they were bad mothers—and reduced first-year child abuse from 23 percent to 4 percent.

 

Thus, conclude Walton and Wilson, “exercises that seem minor can be transformational” when individuals address “a pressing psychological question, such as whether they belong at school, whether a romantic partner loves them, whether they can improve in math, whether they are a ‘bad mom,’ or whether groups can change in an ongoing conflict.”

 

So, genes matter. But we are all a mix of nature and nurture, of biology and beliefs. And that is why wisely changing people’s interpretations of their experiences and situations can support their flourishing.

 

(For David Myers’ other essays on psychological science and everyday life visit TalkPsych.com.)

This  www.TalkPsych.com entry offers three news flashes—samples of research that have captured my attention (and may wend their way into future textbook editions).

 

NEWS FLASH # 1:Intergroup contact makes us “less inward looking and more open to experiences.” As any social psychology student knows, friendly contact with other sorts of folks engenders positive attitudes. For example, as an earlier TalkPsych essay documented, regions with more immigrants have more welcoming, positive attitudes toward immigrants. Places without immigrants fear them the most.

 

But intergroup contact does more than improve our attitudes toward others. Research by Brock University psychologist Gordon Hodson and his British colleagues reveals that intergroup contact  affects our thinking—it loosens us up, promoting cognitive flexibility, novel problem solving, and increased creativity. This observation complements earlier research that demonstrated, after controlling for other factors, that students who studied in another culture became more flexibly adept at creative problem solving (see here and here).

 

NEWS FLASH # 2:

More than we suppose, other people like us. Do you sometimes worry that people you’ve just met don’t like you very much? Actually, recent studies by Cornell University researcher Erica Boothby and her colleagues found that people rate new conversational partners as more enjoyable and likeable than the new partner presumes. Despite our shared self-serving bias (the  tendency to overestimate our own knowledge, abilities, and virtues), we tend to underestimate the impressions we make on others. Moreover, the shyer the person, the bigger the liking gap—the underestimate of others’ liking of us.

 

Ergo, the next time you fret over whether you were too quiet, too chatty, or too wrinkled and rumpled, be reassured: Others probably liked you more than you realize.

 

NEWS FLASH # 3:

The youngest children in a school class are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. The current psychiatric disorder manual broadens the criteria for diagnosing attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), thus increasing the number of children so diagnosed. Some say the diagnosis enables helpful treatment and improved functioning. Skeptics say the broadened criteria pathologize immature rambunctiousness, especially among boys—whom evolution has not designed to sit passively at school desks.

 

Support for the skeptics comes from a New England Journal of Medicine study that followed 407,846 U.S. children from birth to elementary school. ADHD diagnoses were a stunning 34 percent higher among those born in August in states with a September 1 cutoff for school entry—but not higher among children in states with other cutoff dates. This massive study confirms earlier reports (here and here) that the youngest children in a class tend to be more fidgety—and more often diagnosed with ADHD—than their older peers.

 

Such findings illustrate why I feel privileged to be gifted with the time, and the responsibility, to learn something new most every day. For me, the primary job of writing is not making words march up a screen, but reading and reading, searching for insights—for gems amid the rocks—that educated people should know about.

 

(For David Myers’ other essays on psychological science and everyday life visit www.TalkPsych.com.)

Here’s some information the business majors taking your Intro Psych class should be thinking about.

 

During the social psychology chapter, pose this question to your students: Is it good for employees to know how much money their managers and their coworkers are making? Why? Give students a couple minutes to think about this. If you’d like, let students discuss with one or two people around them. If you have an audience response system, ask each question separately. “Is it good for employees to know how much money their managers are making?” Ask volunteers to share their reasoning. Next, ask “Is it good for employees to know how much their coworkers are making?” Again, ask volunteers to share their reasoning.

 

Zoë Cullen (Harvard Business School) and Ricardo Perez-Truglia (UCLA) wondered the same thing. You’re welcome to read the working paper or a summary written by the authors for the Harvard Business Review.

 

Managers (vertical inequality)

 

Cullen and Perez-Truglia (Cullen & Perez-Truglia, 2018) asked a couple thousand employees of “a large commercial bank in Asia” to guess how much their manager made. They thought that their managers made about 14% less than they actually did. The researchers then randomly assigned the employees to either learn how much their managers actually made or to remain in the dark.

 

With the assistance of the bank, researchers “gathered daily timestamp, email, and sales data for the year following our survey.” Learning that their managers made more money than they thought resulted in employees working more hours, sending more email messages, and selling more than those who did not learn how much their managers actually made. In fact, the more off employees were in their estimates, the more work they did. And the closer the manager was on the corporate ladder to the employee, the more pronounced the effect. “[A]fter realizing that these managers get paid more, employees became more optimistic about the salaries they will earn themselves five years in the future.” 

 

Coworkers (horizontal inequality)

 

Cullen and Perez-Truglia (Cullen & Perez-Truglia, 2018) asked those same research participants to guess the salaries of “the other employees with the same position and title, from the same unit.” While the participants were closer in accuracy with their guesses than they were with managers, most still underestimated how much their coworkers were making. Again, participants were randomly assigned to learn how much their coworkers actually made or to remain in the dark.

 

Using the same “daily timestamp, email, and sales data for the year following our survey,” researchers found employees worked less than their in-the-dark counterparts. And they didn’t work just a little bit less. “ Finding out that peers earn on average 10% more than initially thought caused employees to spend 9.4% fewer hours in the office, send 4.3% fewer emails, and sell 7.3% less.”

 

This is a beautiful – if unfortunate – example of relative deprivation. Relative deprivation is “the perception by an individual that the amount of a desired resource (e.g., money, social status) he or she has is less than some comparison standard. This standard can be the amount that was expected or the amount possessed by others with whom the person compares himself or herself” (American Psychological Association, n.d.) When we experience relative deprivation, we feel worse. And when that relative deprivation is experienced in a work setting, that feeling worse translates into working less.

 

Discussion

 

Ask your students to imagine that they are employers. How might they handle salary information? Would they be transparent, letting everyone know how much everyone is paid? Would they release average salaries by position type rather than attach names to salaries? And should different people who hold the same position be paid different salaries?

Cullen and Perez-Truglia (Cullen & Perez-Truglia, 2018) offer a couple suggestions.

 

  1. “[K]eep salaries compressed among employees in the same position, but offer them large raises when they get promoted to a higher position.”
  2. “[T]ransparency about average pay for a position, without disclosing individual salaries.”

 

The researchers conclude their Harvard Business Review article with this advice.

 

We encourage you to start experimenting with transparency at your company.  The first step is to figure out what your employees want. You can find out through anonymous surveys. Just mention some alternatives that you consider viable, and let them voice their preferences. For instance, do your employees feel informed about their salaries five years down the road? Would they want to find out the average pay two or three promotions ahead? Once you look at the survey results, you can decide what information to disclose and how. According to our findings, signals about the enticing paychecks waiting five years in the future is the push they need to be at their best.

 

References

 

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Relative deprivation. Retrieved December 26, 2018, from https://dictionary.apa.org/relative-deprivation

 

Cullen, Z., & Perez-Truglia, R. (2018). The motivating (and demotivating) effects of learning others’ salaries. Retrieved December 27, 2018, from https://hbr.org/2018/10/the-motivating-and-demotivating-effects-of-learning-others-salaries

At long last, artificial intelligence (AI)—and its main subset, machine learning—is beginning to fulfill its promise. When fed massive amounts of data, computers can discern patterns (as in speech recognition) and make predictions or decisions. AlphaZero, a Google-related computer system, started playing chess, shogi (Japanese chess), and GO against itself. Before long, thanks to machine learning, AlphaZero progressed from no knowledge of each game to “the best player, human or computer, the world has ever seen.”

 

DrAfter123/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images

 

I’ve had recent opportunities to witness the growing excitement about machine learning in the human future, through conversations with

  • Adrian Weller (a Cambridge University scholar who is program director for the UK’s national institute for data science and AI).
  • Andrew Briggs (Oxford’s Professor of Nanomaterials, who is using machine learning to direct his quantum computing experiments and, like Weller, is pondering what machine learning portends for human flourishing).
  • Brian Odegaard (a UCLA post-doc psychologist who uses machine learning to identify brain networks that underlie human consciousness and perception).

 

Two new medical ventures (to which—full disclosure—my family foundation has given investment support) illustrate machine learning’s potential:

  • Fifth Eye, a University of Michigan spinoff, has had computers mine data on millions of heartbeats from critically ill hospital patients—to identify invisible, nuanced signs of deterioration. By detecting patterns that predict patient crashes, the system aims to provide a potentially life-saving early warning system (well ahead of doctors or nurses detecting anything amiss).
  • Delphinus, which offers a new ultrasound alternative to mammography, will similarly use machine learning from thousands of breast scans to help radiologists spot potent cancer cells.

 

Other machine-learning diagnostic systems are helping physicians to identify strokes, retinal pathology, and (using sensors and language predictors) the risk of depression or suicide. Machine learning of locked-in ALS patients’ brain wave patterns associated with “Yes” and “No” answers has enabled them to communicate their thoughts and feelings. And it is enabling researchers to translate brain activity into speech.

 

Consider, too, a new Pew Research Center study of gender representation in Google images. Pew researchers first harvested an archive of 26,981 gender-labeled human faces from different countries and ethnic groups. They fed 80 percent of these images into a computer, which used machine learning to discriminate male and female faces. When tested on the other 20 percent, the system achieved 95 percent accuracy.

 

Pew researchers next had the system use its new human-like gender-discrimination ability to  identify the gender of persons shown in 10,000 Google images associated with 105 common occupations. Would the gender representation in the image search results overrepresent, underrepresent, or accurately represent their proportions, as reported by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data summaries?

 

The result? Women, relative to their presence in the working world, were significantly underrepresented in some categories and overrepresented in others. For example, the BLS reports that 57 percent of bartenders are female—as are only 29 percent of the first 100 people shown in Google image searches of “bartender” (as you can see for yourself). Searches for “medical records technician,” “probation officer,” “general manager,” “chief executive,” and “security guard” showed a similar underrepresentation. But women were overrepresented, relative to their working proportion, in Google images for “police,” “computer programmer,” “mechanic,” and “singer.” Across all 105 jobs, men are 54 percent of those employed and 60 percent of those pictured. The bottom line: Machine learning reveals (in Google users’ engagement) a subtle new form of gender bias.

 

As these examples illustrate, machine learning holds promise for helpful application and research. But it will also entail some difficult ethical questions.

 

Imagine, for example, that age, race, gender, or sexual orientation are incorporated into algorithms that predict recidivism among released prisoners. Would it be discriminatory, or ethical, to use such demographic predictors in making parole decisions?

 

Such questions already exist in human judgments, but may become more acute if and when we ask machines to make these decisions. Or is there reason to hope that it will be easier to examine and tweak the inner workings of an algorithmic system than to do so with a human mind?

 

(For David Myers’ other essays on psychological science and everyday life visit www.TalkPsych.com.)

In Intro Psych, during coverage of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in the therapy chapter, give your students this one-page summary provided by Division 12 of the American Psychological Association: Society of Clinical Psychology. Walk your students through some of the highlights.

 

Next, share with your students this Tumblr post as it appeared on Fail Blog. Clearly the client had been seeing this therapist for some time. The client knew the basics of CBT – CBT is about changing how one thinks. The client had had some practice in doing this, but during this particular session, the client was not using what he’d learned.

 

The therapist had very likely seen this behavior from the client before and had been thinking about ways to call the client’s attention to his negative thinking without interrupting the client’s train of thought. At the therapy session described in the Tumblr post, the therapist unveiled his new CBT tool: a Nerf gun. For the rest of the therapy session, every time the client voiced “unhelpful ways of thinking,” his therapist shot him with a Nerf gun. The client stopped, thought about what he said, and revised it. Saying “what a stupid issue, I’m an idiot” was revised to this issue is “frustrating me and I don’t want it to be a problem I’m having.”

 

If you’d like to expand this coverage, you can add information about attribution. Making global (vs. specific), stable (vs. unstable), and internal (vs. external) attributions about negative events is associated with depression.

For example, after a relationships ends, a person may make the following attributions.

 

Global: “I can’t do anything right.”

 

Stable: “I’ll never have a successful relationship.”

 

Internal: “I’m not good enough to have a successful relationship.”

 

In CBT, the client is encouraged to make different attributions, attributions that are specific (vs. global), unstable (vs. stable), and external (vs. internal).

 

Specific: “This relationship wasn’t good.”

 

Unstable: “While this relationship didn’t work out, the next one could.”

 

External: “It takes two people to have a relationship. My boyfriend bears some responsibility.”

 

Interestingly, the reverse is true for positive events. Making specific, unstable, and external attributions for positive events is associated with depression. People who are not depressed are more likely to make global, stable, and internal attributions for positive events.

 

Class demonstration

 

If you’ve been waiting all term for an opportunity to peg your students with Nerf balls, here’s the demonstration for you.

Ask your students to imagine that they have received a poor grade on an exam. Ask student volunteers to give a global attribution for the failing grade. Hit them with a Nerf ball (aim low, you don’t want anyone to lose an eye!), and then ask for a specific attribution instead. After students have given several global attributions, ask for stable attributions – and for those to be changed to unstable attributions. Lastly, ask for internal attributions – and for those to be changed to external attributions.

Judith Rich Harris’ December 29th death took my mind to her remarkable life and legacy. Among all the people I’ve never met, she was the person I came to know best. Across 243 emails she shared her draft writings, her critical assessment of others’ thinking (including my own), and the progress of her illness.

 

Our conversation began after the publication of her cogent Psychological Review paper, which changed my thinking and led me to send a note of appreciation. The paper’s gist was delivered by its first two sentences: “Do parents have any important long-term effects on the development of their child’s personality? This article examines the evidence and concludes that the answer is no.”

 

Her argument: Behavior genetics studies (of twins and adoptees) show that genes predispose our individual traits, and that siblings’ “shared environment” has a shockingly small influence. Peers also matter—they transmit culture. Show her some children who hear English spoken with one accent at home, and another accent at school and in the neighborhood, and—virtually without exception—she will show you children who talk like their peers.

 

Judy Harris was a one-time Harvard psychology graduate student who was dismissed from its doctoral program because, as George Miller explained to her, she lacked “originality and independence.”

 

But she persisted. In her mid-fifties, without any academic affiliation and coping with debilitating autoimmune disorders, she had the chutzpah to submit her evidence-based ideas to Psychological Review, then as now psychology’s premier theoretical journal. To his credit, the editor, Daniel Wegner, welcomed this contribution from this little-known independent scholar. Moreover, when her great encourager Steven Pinker and I each nominated her paper for the annual award for “outstanding paper on general psychology,” the judges selected her as co-recipient of the—I am not making this up—George A. Miller Award. (To his credit, Miller later termed the irony “delicious.”)

 

The encouraging lesson (in Harris’ words): “‘Shut in’ does not necessarily mean ‘shut out.’” Truth will out. Although biases are real, excellence can get recognized. So, wherever you are, whatever your big idea or passion, keep on.

 

Her fame expanded with the publication of her 1998 book The Nurture Assumption, which was profiled by Malcolm Gladwell in a New Yorker feature article, made into a Newsweek cover story, and named as a Pulitzer Prize finalist.

 

Her argument was controversial, and a reminder that important lessons are often taught by those who fearlessly push an argument to its limit. (Surely child-rearing does have some direct influence on children’s values, religiosity, and politics—and not just via the peer culture to which parents expose children. And surely the loving versus abusive extremes of parenting matter.)

 

Harris was kind and generous (she supportively critiqued my writing, even as I did hers) but also had the self-confidence to take on all critics and to offer challenges to other widely accepted ideas. One was the “new science” of birth order, which, as she wrote me, was “neither new nor science.” An August 24, 1997, email gives the flavor of her wit and writing:

Birth order keeps coming back. In their 1996 book on birth order and political behavior, Albert Somit, Alan Arwine, and Steven A. Peterson spoke of the “inherent non-rational nature of deeply held beliefs” and mused that “permanently slaying a vampire”—the belief in birth order effect—may require “that a stake of gold be driven through his/her heart at high noon” (p. vi).
            Why is it so difficult to slay this vampire? Why, in spite of all the telling assaults that have been made on it, does it keep coming back? The answer is that the belief in birth order effects fits so well into the basic assumptions of our profession and our culture. Psychologists and nonpsychologists alike take it for granted that a child’s personality, to the degree that it is shaped by the environment, receives that shaping primarily at home. And since we know (from our own memories and introspections) that a child’s experiences at home are very much affected by his or her position in the family—oldest, youngest, or in the middle—we expect birth order to leave permanent marks on the personality.
            The belief in birth order effects never dies; it just rests in its coffin until someone lifts the lid again.

 

Alas, the disease that shut her in has, as she anticipated, claimed her. In her last email sent my way on September 6, 2018, she reported that

I’m not doing so well. This is the normal course of the disorder I have—pulmonary arterial hypertension. It is incurable and eventually progresses to heart failure and death. I’m in the heart failure stage now. It’s progressing very slowly, but makes remaining alive not much fun. 

            Because I can’t actually DO anything anymore, it’s a treat to get your mail. I can’t do any more than I’ve already done, but maybe what I’ve already done is enough. Who would have thought that 20 years after its publication, people would still be talking about The Nurture Assumption!

 

Or that The New York Times would replay its message at length, in your well-deserved obituary, Judy.

 

(For David Myers’ other essays on psychological science and everyday life visit www.TalkPsych.com.)

Crows are smart. Never underestimate a crow.

 

Comparative psychology is “the study of nonhuman animal behavior with the dual objective of understanding the behavior for its own sake and furthering the understanding of human behavior” (American Psychological Association, n.d.). The better that we understand how crows behave, think, communicate, and solve problems, the better we will understand both crows and ourselves.

 

I have a short written assignment that my Intro Psych students do. After its completion, students have a greater appreciation for the crows around them.

 

John Marzluff, a University of Washington zoologist, has made studying crows his life’s work. In his 22-minute TEDx talk, Marzluff shares what he thinks everyone should know about crows. I assign this during the thinking chapter in Intro Psych, after we’ve covered neuroscience and learning. It makes for a nice review of previously covered content.

 

Here are the questions I ask my students to address:

  • What three factors does Marzluff cite for the crow's problem-solving ability? Explain how each contributes to problem-solving skills.
  • How do the brain areas of crows map onto the human brain? What do those brain areas do and why are they important? How do their brains differ from those of humans?
  • Give an example from his talk of how the birds' behavior changed due to positive reinforcement.
  • Give an example from his talk of how the birds' behavior changed due to observational learning.
  • What is your reaction to this video? 

 

 

 

Reference

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Comparative psychology. Retrieved December 26, 2018, from https://dictionary.apa.org/comparative-psychology

As Pope Francis has said, “Everyone’s existence is deeply tied to that of others.” We are social animals. We need to belong. We flourish when supported by close relationships. Finding a supportive confidante, we feel joy.

 

Longing for acceptance and love, Americans spend $86 billion annually on cosmetics, fragrances, and personal care products—and billions more on clothes, hair styling, and diets. Is that money well spent? Will it help us find and form meaningful relationships?

 

Consider one of social psychology’s most provocative, and simplest, experiments. Cornell University students were asked to don a Barry Manilow T-shirt (at the behest of researcher Thomas Gilovich and colleagues) and were then shown into a room where several others were completing questionnaires. Afterwards they were asked to guess how many of the others noticed their dorky attire. Their estimate? About half. Actually, only 23 percent did.

 

Other experiments confirm this spotlight effect—an overestimation of others’ noticing us, as if a spotlight is shining on us.

 

The phenomenon extends to our secret emotions. Thanks to an illusion of transparency we presume that our attractions, our disgust, and our anxieties leak out and become visible to others. Imagine standing before an audience: If we’re nervous and we know it, will our face surely show it? Not necessarily. Even our lies and our lusts are less transparent than we imagine.

 

There’s bad news here: Others notice us less than we imagine (partly because they are more worried about the impressions they are making).

 

But there’s also good news: Others notice us less than we imagine. And that good news is liberating: A bad hair day hardly matters. And if we wear yesterday’s clothes again today, few will notice. Fewer will care. Of those, fewer still will remember. 

 

If normal day-to-day variations in our appearance are hardly noticed and soon forgotten, what does affect the impressions we make and the relationships we hope to form and sustain?

 

Proximity. Our social ecology matters. We tend to like those nearby—those who sit near us in class, at work, in worship. Our nearest become our dearest as we befriend or marry people who live in the same town, attend the same school, share the same mail room, or visit the same coffee shop. Mere exposure breeds liking. Familiar feels friendly. Customary is comfortable. So look around.

 

Similarity. Hundreds of experiments confirm and reconfirm that likeness leads to liking (and thus the challenge of welcoming the benefits of social diversity). The more similar another’s attitudes, beliefs, interests, politics, income, and on and on, the more disposed we are to like the person and to stay connected. And the more dissimilar another’s attitudes, the greater the odds of disliking.  Opposites retract.

 

If proximity and similarity help bonds form, what can we do to grow and sustain relationships?

 

Equity. One key to relationship endurance is equity, which occurs when friends perceive that they receive in proportion to what they give. When two people share their time and possessions, when they give and receive support in equal measure, and when they care equally about one another, their prospects for long-term friendship or love are bright. This doesn’t mean playing relational ping pong—balancing every invitation with a tit-for-tat response. But over time, each friend or partner invests in the other about as much as he or she receives.

 

Self-disclosure. Relationships also grow closer and stronger as we share our likes and dislikes, our joys and hurts, our dreams and worries. In the dance of friendship or love, one reveals a little and the other reciprocates. And then the first reveals more, and on and on. As the relationship progresses from small talk to things that matter, the increasing self-disclosure can elicit liking, which unleashes further self-disclosure.

 

Mindful of the benefits of equity and mutual self-disclosure, we can monitor our conversations: 

  • Are we listening as much as we are talking?
  • Are we drawing others out as much as we disclosing about ourselves?

 

In his classic How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie offered kindred advice. To win friends, he advised, “become genuinely interested in other people. . . . You can make more friends in two months by being interested in them, than in two years by making them interested in you.” Thus, “Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.”

 

So, looking our best may help a little, initially, though less than we suppose. What matters more is being there for others—focusing on them, encouraging them, supporting them—and enjoying their support in return. Such is the soil that feeds satisfying friendships and enduring love.

 

(For David Myers’ other weekly essays on psychological science and everyday life, visit www.TalkPsych.com)

Sue Frantz

Gaming disorder: Discuss

Posted by Sue Frantz Jan 2, 2019

"Wes, 21, an Eagle Scout and college student from Michigan, played video games 80 hours a week, only stopping to eat every two to three days. He lost 25 pounds and failed his classes" (Irvine, 2018).

 

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently announced the addition of “gaming disorder” to the next edition of the International Classification of Diseases.

 

Gaming disorder is defined in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as a pattern of gaming behavior (“digital-gaming” or “video-gaming”) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences (World Health Organization, 2018).

 

For your reference, internet gaming disorder appeared in DSM-V in the section identifying areas in need of research. While it’s called internet gaming disorder, the internet part is not required. As it’s currently written, a person would need five of these symptoms to be diagnosed:

 

  • Preoccupation with gaming
  • Withdrawal symptoms when gaming is taken away or not possible (sadness, anxiety, irritability)
  • Tolerance, the need to spend more time gaming to satisfy the urge
  • Inability to reduce playing, unsuccessful attempts to quit gaming
  • Giving up other activities, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities due to gaming
  • Continuing to game despite problems
  • Deceiving family members or others about the amount of time spent on gaming
  • The use of gaming to relieve negative moods, such as guilt or hopelessness
  • Risk, having jeopardized or lost a job or relationship due to gaming (“Internet gaming,” 2018)

 

The symptoms, as it true for (almost?) all DSM-V diagnoses, must cause “significant impairment or distress” (“Internet gaming,” 2018).

 

Following WHO’s announcement, 25 researchers co-authored a short and freely-available paper published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions (Aarseth et al., 2017) outlining their concerns with the inclusion of gaming disorder in ICD-11. Their six concerns are:

 

  1. “The quality of the research base is low.”
  2. “The current operationalization of the construct leans too heavily on substance use and gambling criteria.”
  3. “There is no consensus on the symptomatology and assessment of problematic gaming.”
  4. “Moral panics around the harm of video gaming might result in premature application of a clinical diagnosis and the treatment of abundant false-positive cases, especially among children and adolescents.”
  5. “Research will be locked into a confirmatory approach rather than an exploration of the boundaries of normal versus pathological.”
  6. “The healthy majority of gamers will be affected by stigma and perhaps even changes in policy.”

 

In the same journal volume, also freely-available, a couple researchers (Király & Demetrovics, 2017) address each of those concerns.

 

Discussion

 

After your coverage of psychological disorders, divide your students into six groups – or if you have a large class, divide students into groups that are multiples of six. Give each group a copy of both articles.  Assign one of the six concerns to each group. The group is to:

  1. Summarize the concern as it was raised in the Aarseth article.
  2. Summarize the response to that concern given by Király and Demetrovics.
  3. Decide, as a group, which of the two arguments is more persuasive. In other words, based on that concern alone, should ICD-11 include gaming disorder? Explain the group’s reasoning.

 

Ask three different group members to take on the responsibility of being prepared to speak to the class about one of those three tasks. In other words, one student would address #1, another would address #2, and another would address #3.

 

Following discussion, ask the group that was assigned the first concern to offer their responses to the three questions. If you have more than one group looking at the first concern, ask the other groups for their response to the third question.

Repeat with the remaining five concerns.

 

Conclude this activity with a summary of how difficult it is to determine if a set of behaviors rises to the point of a diagnosable disorder and that there are real consequences for creating a diagnosis.

 

Expansion

 

If you would like to expand this exploration, the journal volume, September 2017 issue of the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, these two articles came from has another 10 articles on the topic, all freely available. Create 11 groups. Give each group the Aarseth article that opens the volume, plus one additional article from the remaining 11 commentaries. To start the discussion, you can summarize the Aarseth article. This will ensure everyone starts on the same page, and this will model what their summaries should look like. After the groups have had time to discuss the commentary article they’ve been given, ask each group to report out. After all the groups have reported, by a show of hands (or through an audience response system), ask students to decide if gaming disorder should be included in ICD-11. Ask volunteers to share their reasoning.

 

References

 

Aarseth, E., Bean, A. M., Boonen, H., Colder Carras, M., Coulson, M., Das, D., … Van Rooij, A. J. (2017). Scholars’ open debate paper on the World Health Organization ICD-11 Gaming Disorder proposal. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 6(3), 267–270. https://doi.org/10.1556/2006.5.2016.088

 

Internet gaming. (2018, June). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.pn.2018.12a20

 

Irvine, M. (2018). ‘Hi, my name is ___, and I’m addicted to tech’. Retrieved December 27, 2018, from https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/hes-a-tech-addict-who-works-in-the-tech-industry/

 

Király, O., & Demetrovics, Z. (2017). Inclusion of Gaming Disorder in ICD has more advantages than disadvantages. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 6(3), 280–284. https://doi.org/10.1556/2006.6.2017.046

 

World Health Organization. (2018). WHO | Gaming disorder. Retrieved December 25, 2018, from https://www.who.int/features/qa/gaming-disorder/en/