In Brief

  • Men’s subconscious self-esteem may be bruised when their female partners succeedMen's subconscious self-esteem may be bruised when their female partners succeed, finds research led by University of Florida scientists. In one experiment, researchers asked heterosexual participants — 284 of whom were men — to think about a time when their partner had succeeded or failed either socially, such as being a charming host at a party, or intellectually, such as not getting a promotion. The researchers used a computer test to track how quickly the participants associated good and bad words with themselves, to measure implicit self-esteem. They found that whether the achievements or failures were social, intellectual or related to participants' own successes or failures, men subconsciously still felt worse about themselves when their female partners succeeded than when they failed. The researchers also found that men's implicit self-esteem took an even bigger hit when they thought about a time when their partners succeeded at something while they had failed. Women's self-esteem, however, was unaffected by their male partners' successes or failures (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, online Aug. 5).
  • Dishonest deeds can lead to "cheater's high," finds a study of more than 1,000 people in the United States and England. In one experiment, researchers at the University of Washington randomly assigned participants to one of two groups to take a math and logic test on a computer. In one group, when participants completed an answer, they were automatically moved to the next question; in the other group, participants could click a button on the screen to see the correct answer before submitting their responses, but they were told to disregard the button and solve the problem on their own. Graders found that 68 percent of the participants in the latter group used the correct-answer button, which the researchers counted as cheating. According to a post-test survey, the cheaters reported being overall happier afterward than those who didn't cheat and those who had no opportunity to cheat. Whether the cheating led to financial rewards appeared to have no effect on cheaters' emotional responses (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, online Sept. 3).
  • Paying physicians for how well they perform specific medical examinations and procedures yields better health outcomes than the traditional fee-for-service model, according to research conducted by scientists at the University of California, San Francisco, and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Over one year, researchers tested a tiered pay-for-performance program at physicians' offices in New York City with high proportions of Medicaid patients, rewarding physicians for every patient who did well, and paying them extra for high-risk patients who were difficult to treat based on co-morbidities, such as diabetes or heart disease. The researchers found that nearly 10 percent of patients in the group getting extra pay showed improvement, compared with about 4 percent of patients in a comparison group operating under the traditional fee-for-service model in which everyone gets paid a set amount (Journal of the American Medical Association, Sept. 11).
  • Soda consumption may be related to behavioral problems in young childrenSoda consumption may be related to behavioral problems in young children, according to a study led by Columbia University researchers. The scientists examined data from a survey of 3,000 5-year-olds and their mothers in 20 large U.S. cities. After controlling for socio-demographic factors, researchers found any non-diet soft drink consumption by the children was associated with increased aggressive behavior. The soda-drinking children also had more attention problems than children who did not drink sodas (The Journal of Pediatrics, online Aug. 21).
  • A high percentage of patients with anxiety and depression prefer psychotherapy to medications, finds research by McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School scientists. The team reviewed 34 studies looking at the desired treatment options of more than 90,000 people interviewed in primary-care and specialty-care settings. They found that despite a continued increase in the use of psychiatric medications and a decrease in the use of psychotherapy nationally, 75 percent of patients interviewed preferred psychotherapy over medications (Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, June).
  • Self-affirmation may make people more willing to seek psychotherapy, according to research led by Iowa State University researchers. In the study, 85 college students experiencing psychological distress were randomly assigned to one of two writing tasks. In one, participants described three or four experiences in which they felt good about themselves. In a control group, they described jellybean flavors. In a survey completed by participants after the writing task, those who had taken part in self-affirmation reported a greater willingness to seek psychotherapy compared with those in the control group (Journal of Counseling Psychology, online Aug. 19).
  • Women may be happier when they gain weight, even though they are not as healthy, according to a study conducted at Helmholtz Zentrum München, the German Research Center for Environmental Health. The researchers evaluated weight-and health-related quality of life data collected from more than 3,000 people over seven years. They found that weight gain led to a deterioration in physical health among women and obese men, but the female study participants experienced improved mental quality of life as their weight increased. The findings were observed even in women who were already overweight when the study began (International Journal of Public Health, September).
  • Overweight, obese and lean women are equally capable of impulse control, suggests a study conducted at the University at Buffalo. In the study, which included 24 lean and 24 overweight or obese women, participants took a series of hypothetical tests that promised different amounts of money available either now or in the future. Some participants were then asked to think about future events that would occur during the time periods involved in the monetary test. For example, if they were choosing between $95 now and $100 in six months, researchers asked them to think about the most vivid event that would be happening to them in six months, such as a birthday party. A control group was asked to think about vivid scenes from a Pinocchio story they had read. The researchers found that the women who engaged in the future thinking exercise were more willing to wait for the money and that there were few differences among the lean and the overweight or obese women (Appetite, December).
  • Giving children a choice about sharing increases their sharing behavior, finds research led by Cornell University psychologists. In the study, the researchers introduced 3- and 4-year-old children to "Doggie," a puppet who was feeling sad. The children were given a set of stickers and were put into three groups. In one they were given the option to either share their stickers with Doggie or keep them for themselves, and in another they could choose either to share their stickers or throw them away. Children in a third group were required by the researcher to share. Later on, the children were introduced to "Ellie," another sad puppet. They were given the option to share up to three stickers. The kids who earlier chose to help Doggie shared more stickers with Ellie than did those who weren't given the option to share earlier or who were required to give up their stickers (Psychological Science, online Aug. 16).
  • Teens whose parents yell at them are more likely to experience depression and aggression, according to research led by University of Pittsburgh scientists. The study followed 976 two-parent families, with children assessed at ages 13 and 14. The researchers asked the teens about their behavior problems, depression symptoms and the warmth of the relationship with their parents. Parents were asked about their use of harsh verbal discipline. The researchers found that the kids whose parents yelled when the children were 13 experienced symptoms of depression and more behavior problems the next year, including fighting with peers, trouble in school and lying to parents. The increases were similar whether parents yelled or used physical approaches such as pushing or spanking. The degree of warmth of the parent-child relationship didn't alter the negative effects of the harsh verbal discipline (Child Development, online Sept. 3).
  • Older adults retain the ability to make accurate judgments about others' emotions using their acquired knowledge, but not sensory cues, according to research conducted at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Germany. In the study, which involved 50 couples ages 20 to 30 and 50 couples ages 69 to 80, researchers asked participants to record their own and their partners' emotions six times a day for two weeks using a cell phone. They found that, compared with younger adults, the older couples were less adept at reading emotion in their spouse's face. But when their spouse wasn't present, older and younger adults were equally able to discern their significant others' moods based on their acquired knowledge of their partners (Psychological Science, online Sept. 6).
  • Children who attend daycare appear to be better able to communicate with children of all ages, according to a study conducted at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands. The researchers engaged 24 5-year-olds in a two-player computer game in which the child had to learn how to communicate the location of a hidden object without talking to a player in a separate room. The game required the children to adjust their communication styles depending on how old they thought their co-players were. For example, when the children thought they were playing 2-year-olds, they tended to approach the task with more patience than when they thought they were playing children their own age. The researchers found that the more days children spent in daycare, the better they were able to adjust their communication styles (PLOS One, Aug. 29).
  • People with anxiety issues may need more personal space, according to a study out of University College London. Researchers recorded the blink reflex — a defensive response to potentially dangerous stimuli at varying distances from a person's face — of 15 people ages 20 to 37. They then compared the reflex data with the results of an anxiety test in which subjects rated their levels of anxiety in various situations. People who scored highly on the anxiety test tended to react more strongly to stimuli about eight inches from their face than did those who were not as anxious (The Journal of Neuroscience, Aug. 28).
  • Children who take antipsychotic drugs for mood or behavior disorders may be at increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, according to a study out of Vanderbilt University. Researchers examined the medical records of more than 43,000 youths ages 6 to 24 from 1996 through 2007, comparing those who were prescribed approved treatments for attention, behavioral and mood disorders with similar youths who took atypical antipsychotics for the same disorders. Those who took antipsychotics had triple the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in the following year, with the risk increasing further as dosages increased. The increased risk persisted for at least a year after the medications were stopped (JAMA Psychiatry, online Aug. 21).
  • Whether people tend to like or dislike things affects how they address everyday events, according to research led by psychologists at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and the University of Pennsylvania. The researchers created a scale that required study participants to report their attitudes toward a wide variety of unrelated stimuli, such as architecture, cold showers, politics and soccer. They then averaged the responses together to calculate a participant's dispositional attitude — how much they tend to like or dislike things in general. The researchers found that people with generally positive dispositional attitudes are more open — based on surveys conducted with all of the participants — than people with generally negative dispositional attitudes. Day-to-day, this means that people with positive dispositional attitudes may be more prone to buy new products, get vaccination shots and follow regular positive actions such as recycling or driving carefully (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, June).
  • Black adults are more likely than white adults to skimp on sleep, and the sleep gap is especially wide for black professionals, according to a study out of the Harvard School of Public Health. Based on the results of a nationally representative survey of nearly 140,000 men and women, 29 percent of adults routinely get fewer than seven hours of sleep each night. Sleep skimping was more common among blacks in general than whites — 37 percent compared with 28 percent — but researchers found an even more noticeable difference between professionals: 42 percent of black professionals reported fewer than seven hours of sleep each night compared with 26 percent of white professionals. A sleep gap was not found among food and retail workers, and the overall racial gap was similar in men and women (American Journal of Epidemiology, online Sept. 9).

— Amy Novotney