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COVID-19 pandemic: did climate-related concerns decrease among the population?

Climate change issues were on top of the public debate these last years before COVID-19 arrived. In 2019, 170 climate strikes were organized in Switzerland which demonstrated a growing conscience and worry about the threat. It has been almost a year since the coronavirus pandemic started and consequently put environmental issues in the background at least in the media. The “finite pool of worry” hypothesis states that humans have a finite emotional resource for worry (Sisco et al., 2020), so that when a concern rises, another one may diminish. Like this, the pandemic would reduce climate change (and other) concerns as COVID-19-related worries would rise. 

Did the pandemic truly affect the concerns about climate change among the population?  A study in the UK showed that the participants perceived COVID-19 less threatening than climate change and thus revealed no evidence for diminishing climate change concerns during the pandemic (Evensen et al., 2020). 

As exposure to information is closely tied to worry about it, another study extended its analysis of the effects of COVID-19 on both worry and attention about climate change and other threats related to it (Sisco et al., 2020). Sisco and colleagues (2020) found that attention to climate change decreased as attention to COVID-19 increased. However, they also found that a higher COVID-19 worry is associated with a higher worry about climate change (Sisco et al., 2020). In other words, worrying about a new threat (COVID-19) can increase concerns about preexisting threats (climate change) which is contrary to the finite pool of worry hypothesis (Sisco et al., 2020). Additionally, they found that political ideology moderates the positive association between COVID-19 concern and climate policy support and that this relationship is the strongest for conservatives (Sisco et al., 2020).  As conservatives are usually less worried about climate change, the pandemic could help diminish the partisan divide in attitudes toward climate change and environmental policies. 

Bibliography :
  • Evensen, D., Whitmarsh, L., Bartie, P., Devine-Wright, P., Dickie, J., Varley, A., Ryder, S. & Mayer, A. (2021). Effect of “finite pool of worry” and COVID-19 on UK climate change perceptions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(3). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2018936118 
  • Sisco, M.R., Constantino, S.M., Gao, Y., Tavoni, M., Cooperman, A.D., Bosetti, V. & Weber, E.U (2020). A finite Pool of Worry or a Finite Pool of Attention? Evidence and Qualifications.  DOI : 10.21203/rs.3.rs-98481/v1
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Author : Johanna Henry

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What hinders your New Year’s resolutions?

It’s that time of the year again where many are thinking about their New Year’s resolutions. Especially in the current time during the Corona crisis, choices for health behaviors are particularly prominent. Although good resolutions are made, they are often not put into action. But why is that?

A hurdle that can get in the way of achieving healthy resolutions are compensatory health beliefs (CHBs). These are beliefs that an unhealthy behavior can later be compensated by a healthy behavior (Rabia et al., 2006). For example, “It is okay if I eat this snack now because I am going to workout later”. Some findings show that individuals with stronger compensatory health beliefs engage in more unhealthy behavior such as drinking alcohol (Matley & Davies, 2018), smoking cigarettes (Radtke et al., 2012), and have a high-calorie intake (Kronick et al., 2011). The compensatory health beliefs can become problematic when they are used as justification to perform the unhealthy behavior nevertheless the compensatory behavior is not exhibited. The accompanying cognitive bias is not perceived and thus one can justify unhealthy behaviors without performing the compensation. 

A study by Amrein et al. (2021) investigated the relationship between CHBs and unhealthy snack consumption in daily life. Subjects were required to provide information about their snack consumption several times a day, state and trait CHBs related to compensation with subsequent eating behaviors and physical activity. The results of the study show that compensatory health beliefs are important for unhealthy snack consumption in daily life.  That means if you have stronger beliefs about compensating for the snack later, you’re more likely to eat an unhealthy snack.  

Of course, such compensatory health beliefs occur not only in the context of unhealthy eating behaviors, but also take place in other areas. But how can you counteract these beliefs? A good strategy for achieving any type of goal is If-Then plans. Typically, goals are described as an end product such as “I want to quit smoking.” If-Then plans, on the other hand, capture predetermined responses when a particular situation occurs. For example, “When I feel the urge to smoke a cigarette, I will eat a chewing gum instead.” Deciding such things in advance reduces the demands on your willpower.

With these mechanisms in mind, it might be helpful to frame your New Year’s resolutions as If-Then plans to reach (or at least increase the chance of reaching) your desired goals.

Bibliography :
  • Amrein, M. A., Scholz, U., & Inauen, J. (2021). Compensatory health beliefs and unhealthy snack consumption in daily life. Appetite, 157, 104996. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2020.104996
  • Kronick, I., Auerbach, R. P., Stich, C., & Knäuper, B. (2011). Compensatory beliefs and intentions contribute to the prediction of caloric intake in dieters. Appetite, 57(2), 435–438. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2011.05.306
  • Matley, F. A. I., & Davies, E. L. (2018). Resisting temptation: Alcohol specific self-efficacy mediates the impacts of compensatory health beliefs and behaviours on alcohol consumption. Psychology, Health & Medicine, 23(3), 259–269. https://doi.org/10.1080/13548506.2017.1363395
  • Rabia, M., Knäuper, B., & Miquelon, P. (2006). The eternal quest for optimal balance between maximizing pleasure and minimizing harm: The compensatory health beliefs model. British Journal of Health Psychology, 11(1), 139–153. https://doi.org/10.1348/135910705X52237
  • Radtke, T., Scholz, U., Keller, R., & Hornung, R. (2012). Smoking is ok as long as I eat healthily: Compensatory Health Beliefs and their role for intentions and smoking within the Health Action Process Approach. Psychology & Health, 27(sup2), 91–107. https://doi.org/10.1080/08870446.2011.603422
Featured image :
  • Hands Holding a 2021 Calendar by Olya Kobruseva www.canva.com (no date available)

Author : Jessica Wiedmer

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current directions

The thing with time

During the night the first snow of the season fell over Bern and Mariah Carey is slowly creeping up the charts. Without a doubt, we are heading towards Christmas. Or is Christmas getting closer? That corresponds to the question Claudia Hammond (2012) asks the readers in her book “Time Warped”. If the meeting on Wednesday must be moved two days forward, when is the meeting? There are two different but equally correct answers to this question. It depends on a person’s view of the future and the perception of time itself. If you arrive in the office on Monday for the scheduled meeting, you see time in a permanent flow. Therefore, the future is an event which moves towards you. If you find yourself at the office on Friday, you perceive yourself in motion through a stationary timeline. You are moving towards the future. This thought experiment is just one example of how different we deal with the concept of “time”.

Our understanding of time is shaped by many aspects. On the one hand, culture plays an important role in how we imagine time. In our western Society time is often visualized as a line with past events on the left end, the present in the middle, and future events on the right end. This picture is also used in the English language. We look forward to something in the future and look back at past events that are behind us. These horizontal metaphors are also used in Mandarin. But unlike in the English language, there are also a lot of vertical metaphors in Mandarin, such as “shàng (‘‘up”) and xià (‘‘down”) who are used to talk about the order of events. Earlier events are “up”, and later events are said to be “down”. This may be the reason or origin of the fact that Mandarin speakers are more likely to visualize time as a vertical line with the past on top and the future on the bottom (Boroditsky, Fuhrman & McCormick, 2011).

But we not only visualize and talk about time in different ways, our perception of time also differs depending on the person. Children with ADHD perceive time differently than children without ADHD. They are less able to estimate how much time has really passed and answer a 12-second reproduction task earlier than their peers. Even if this is only the case in the millisecond range and more studies are needed, it seems that the time for children with ADHD is passing faster (Smith, Taylor, Warner Rogers, Newman, & Rubia, 2002). On the other hand, depressed people experience exactly the opposite. Even though they are able to accurately estimate the time, they seem to experience a slow passage of time on an individual level (Thönes, & Oberfeld, 2015).

One last aspect we should consider is the situation. People who survived a life-threatening event often report that time seems to have moved in slow motion. Could it be that such an intensely emotional moment enables us to speed up our inner clock and act faster than we normally do? Stetson, Matthew and Eagleman (2007) thought it was time to find an answer to this question and threw some people off a 31-meter tower. So, if you think this one time you participated in a study was bad, think again. Sadly, their dedication did not pay off. They found no evidence of increased temporal resolution even though participants retrospectively estimated their own fall to last 36% longer than others’ falls. They suggest that time-slowing is a function of recollection, not perception.

In summary, one can say that time is something very individual. We experience it differently, depending on where we were raised, who we are and in which situation we are currently in. And even if we might not be able to slow it down, we can still use it smartly. For example, by getting the Christmas presents early this year. Because in the end it doesn’t matter if Christmas is getting closer or we are heading towards it, you will have to get them anyway.

Bibliography :
  • Hammond, C. (2012). Time wrapped: unlocking the mysteries of time perception. New York: Harper Collins.
  • Boroditsky, L., Fuhrman, O., & McCormick, K. (2011). Do English and Mandarin speakers think about time differently?. Cognition118(1), 123-129.
  • Smith, A., Taylor, E., Warner Rogers, J., Newman, S., & Rubia, K. (2002). Evidence for a pure time perception deficit in children with ADHD. Journal of child psychology and psychiatry, 43(4), 529-542.
  • Stetson, C., Fiesta, M. P., & Eagleman, D. M. (2007). Does time really slow down during a frightening event?. PloS one, 2(12), e1295.
  • Thönes, S., & Oberfeld, D. (2015). Time perception in depression: A meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders, 175, 359-372.
Featured image :
  • Kia Abell. (2004). Clock. Retrieved from: https://www.freeimages.com/de/photo/clock-1425684

Author : Max Frutiger

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current directions news

An interview with an applied psychology graduate

In this week’s blog post we decided to take a break from COVID and from the more formal articles to offer you an insight into a relatively less known field in psychology. So, I sat with my friend Alexia Gaillard, who recently finished her master in applied psychology at Geneva’s University, to discuss about what she does and what led her to choose this master. I hope this can give you some clues that would help you out in the difficult task of choosing a master amongst all the interesting options out there. 

P: Hi Alex, first I would like to thank you for accepting this socially distant safe interview to talk a bit about your field and your motivations for following this path. Maybe I would like to start by asking you to tell us a little bit about your educational background… 

A: Sure, I started in post-obligatory business school, at the time I didn’t really know what I wanted to do so I thought that maybe with that I could end up somewhere. Then during the last year, I had to do an internship that helped me realize that it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to do something a bit more meaningful and interesting so I decided to change. I went to an event at UNIGE where they presented me a profile of a psychology student and almost everything in that profile resonated with me. 

P: Do you remember what the profile sounded like? 

A: I just remember two words, which were organized and curious. And that is something with which I identify. 

P: So, it was kind of a natural choice for you. 

A: Yeah, I didn’t have to do a lot of thinking and the courses seemed so interesting that I didn’t even consider the other faculties. 

P: It’s so interesting that the two words that you remember are organized and curious… it’s something that is so linked to the master you chose three years after. 

A: Yeah that’s right… I don’t know, if I had to describe myself I would say organized and curious, maybe that’s why I remember it the most. I guess I also wanted to do psychology out of a desire to understand why people do certain things. I also had trouble being in social groups and the choice came from a motivation to further understand the dynamics and maybe feel more comfortable around others.  

P: It’s funny because it’s quite narcissistic but I feel like it is the case for many psychologists to choose psychology in order to understand themselves first. So, at that point what was the representation you had of a psychologist? 

A: Well, I think I had the stereotyped idea of a person with paper notes sited in front of a patient/client who’s sitting on a couch hoping for some advice (which was such a reductionist and wrong idea). But of course, this representation changed towards an image of a scientist too. At first I didn’t think that psychology was that scientific. 

P: Yeah, I had the same feeling. Then you go to uni and realize that you have to take statistics classes, learn all about the scientific methodology and even conduct research. 

A: Yeah, I liked that kind of stability that the scientific method offers to psychologists. 

P: So, when you finished your bachelor did you have a clear idea of what master you wanted to choose? 

A: I knew that I wanted to choose the social orientation because those were the courses I enjoyed the most and the ones where I felt that I was the most engaged with. You know, the interesting thing about those classes was the fact that when you go around your life, interacting as any human being and watching others interact, you can experience the dynamics and everything you learnt in class. I also knew I wanted to do research. 

P: Definitely. So let’s get into the difficult task of defining applied psychology… what would you say it is? 

A: Well, the world applied says it all. You take the knowledge that comes from research, from fundamental psychology and you apply those findings to the problem you want to solve. Let’s say, you start by defining a problem, for example, smoking behavior. You do your literature research on this behavior from A to Z and then you search for alternative solutions based on the behavior changing techniques that come precisely from research. 

P: I see. So, what are some of the fields you can work on being an applied psychologist? 

A: We can work on environmental, health, education and societal issues. The idea is to create intervention programs that are aimed at changing behavior. For example, recently we talk a lot about fast fashion and how consumerism behavior contributes to environmental issues and how we can create interventions to make people change that in order to adopt a more environmentally friendly behavior. To do this, it is important to know how conscious the population your intervention is aimed is about the problem. Because of course, the intervention will be much different for a person who doesn’t acknowledge the problem at all compared to someone who knows that their behavior is bad but doesn’t know how to change it. Our task is to investigate all these factors and create an intervention according to the issue, to the population and to the means you have to create this intervention. After this, the most important part in this process is to evaluate the impact of our intervention, what worked, what didn’t work and what can be done to make it better. The strength of applied psychology interventions compared to others is that it is evidenced-based, we don’t start with an intervention that “seems like a good idea” because the likelihood of it not working is much higher. 

P: Thank you Alex for your time and for sharing your experience with us. 

Featured image :
  • 27 Social Psychology Dissertation Topics for Academic Resea, A., No Comment. Retrieved from : https://dissertationsage.co.uk/social-psychology-dissertation-topics/

Author : Paula Morales

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Why the arranging model is more important than ever in times of Covid-19

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and its measures, maintaining mental health is becoming increasingly difficult for many people (FSP, 2020). We know from various studies that quarantine has a negative effect on a person’s mental state. In a review, Brooks et al. (2020) have reported the negative psychological effects of quarantine, including anxiety, sadness, nervousness, anger, and post-traumatic stress symptoms. During a quarantine, people can manifest a variety of stressors such as fear of infection, boredom, frustration, insufficient care, stigmatization, and financial loss. These stressors can cause long-term effects such as mental disorders (Brooks et al., 2020). According to the WHO, quarantine and its effect on humans could lead to higher levels of loneliness, harmful alcohol and drug consumption, depression, and it is expected that self-harm or suicidal behavior will also increase (WHO, 2020).

According to a press release of the FSP, 1300 psychologists report in a survey about an increased demand from patients since summer 2020 (FSP, 2020). More than 70% of the patients were rejected due to a lack of therapeutic capacity. Due to the corona pandemic, 31% of the participants suffered from new mental illnesses, with some of the participants already carrying a pre-existing mental burden before the corona pandemic. Furthermore, psychologists reported that 47% of their existing clients reported that corona and the nation wide lockdown worsened their symptoms (FSP, 2020). In the field of mental health, there have been barriers to care in Switzerland for quite some time (Stettler, Stocker, Gardiol, Bischof, & Künzli, 2013; Stocker et al., 2016). According to the FSP, patients often have to wait up to six months for ambulatory treatment, which is a considerable amount of waiting time while being in a position of need (FSP, 2020). 

For this reason, the barriers to ambulatory psychotherapy must be reduced as quickly as possible. Until now, ambulatory psychotherapy by psychological psychotherapists has only been reimbursed by the basic insurance as soon as they are employed under a psychiatric doctor. This is the so-called delegation model, which greatly limits the number of psychotherapy places available and leads to long waiting periods (FSP, 2020). Therefore, the critical delegation model should be replaced by the arranging model. The purpose of this model is to enable psychotherapy to be carried out by self-employed psychotherapists in the future, where the costs are also covered by the basic insurance. However, the assignment of patients to a therapist should be made on the instructions of a medical doctor. The regulation change, which is necessary for the introduction of the arranging model, has been available since summer 2019. The consultation process has been completed since October 2019, and the Health Commissions of the Council of States and National Council also support the change. It is now up to the Federal Council to ensure that, in the near future, all people have rapid access to psychotherapeutic services financed by the basic insurance (FSP, 2020).  

Bibliography :
  • Brooks, S. K., Webster, R. K., Smith, L. E., Woodland, L., Wessely, S., Greenberg, N., & Rubin, G. J. (2020). The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence. The Lancet, 395(10227), 912–920. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30460-8
  • Föderation der Schweizer Psychologinnen und Psychologen [FSP] (2020). Covid und die Psyche – Mehr Anfragen bei Psychologen seit dem Sommer. Retrieved November 11, 2020, from https://www.psychologie.ch/covid-und-die-psyche-mehr-anfragen-bei-psychologen-seit-dem-sommer 
  • World Health Organization [WHO] (2020). Mental health and COVID-19. Retrieved November 11, 2020, from https://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/health-emergencies/coronavirus-covid-19/publications-and-technical-guidance/noncommunicable-diseases/mental-health-and-covid-19 
Featured image :
  • Standing Jake (n.d). How to address business growth barriers. Retrieved November 12, 2020, from https://www.platinumpublishing.co.uk/platinum-business-magazine/2019/07/how-to-address-business-growth-barriers/

Author : Alexander Ariu

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Physical touch and social distancing

We thought that Corona was gone during the summer but here we are, having a second wave. We have to social distance again and some of us have to self-quarantine. The psychological damages during the first lockdown were not well-known and most of us had difficulties to deal with it. Yet that we know what it is to love from afar it can either feel more bearable or a contrary can be perceived as a second “punishment”.

In this article, I want to discuss the power of physical touch and what it implies to be deprived of it. 

To illustrate I will present a study that was conducted by Harlow in 1958 (Harlow’s Classic Studies, 2018). At that time the study’s purpose was to discover more about the parenting bond, especially between mother and infant. 

I must warn that this kind of study is now considered as unethical and would not be reproducible.

Harlow isolated several baby monkeys directly after birth to see if they craved their mother only to be fed or if there was something more than just a primary need. Behaviorists tended to affirm that they needed their mother only for food issues and resumed the relation with the notion of stimulus-response. 

The psychologist first isolated the baby monkeys and created two false “mum-monkeys”. On one side there was a “wire mother” who provided only food and on the other side there was a “cloth mother” (see fig. 1). When released, the monkeys went to the “wire mother” to be fed and immediately after went to the “cloth mother” and stayed by it during the eighteen hours left. The searchers wanted to take the experience further and see which of the two monkey mums the baby would choose in a fearful situation.  They put the baby in the cage where the two mums were and scared it with a constructed robot that made a lot of noise. The baby monkey immediately ran to the “cloth mother” to seek comfort. 

Figure 1. “Cloth mother” and “wire mother” © 2020 Jane Gerhard

I intentionally chose this study to illustrate the need of physical touch. There is a huge amount of studies which prove that we need physical touch in our social construction and well-being. So, what I am telling is that we are not monkeys but we need physical touch to feel good and develop well. The social distancing we endure these days can really low our well being if we feel isolated mentally.

However, we can still manage to somehow “replace” the physical touch (not at 100% but enough). The chemical hormon delivered in our brain during a touch is oxytocin (Pierrehumbert, 2003), the so-called “happy hormone”. Luckily for us, we also produce this hormone when we give or receive compliments, eat something good, dance or do little attention for someone we love. So go bake that cake you saw on Instagram and write a letter to someone you love. 

Featured image :
  • Weill Cornell Medicine. (2020). ‘Social distancing:’ What does it mean, and how do we do it? Retrieved from : https://weillcornell.org/news/social-distancing-what-does-it-mean-and-how-do-we-do-it
Bibliography :
  • Harlow H. F., Dodsworth R. O., & Harlow M. K. (1965). Total social isolation in monkeys. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC285801/pdf/pnas00159-0105.pdf
  • Harlow’s Classic Studies Revealed the Importance of Maternal Contact. (2018). The Association for Psychological Science. Retrieved from https://www.psychologicalscience.org/publications/observer/obsonline/harlows-classic-studies-revealed-the-importance-of-maternal-contact.html
  • Pierrehumbert, B. (2003). Amour et attachement. Spirale, no 28(4), 31-48. https://doi.org/10.3917/spi.028.0031
  • G. J., (2020) Untitled. http://janegerhard.com/on-primates/synopsis/

Author : Ardiana Dacaj

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Can magic mushrooms cure depression?

Magic mushrooms are often associated with the hippie movement in the 60s and are not taken seriously. However, psilocybin (magic mushrooms) and other psychedelics have shown promising outcomes in the treatment of a range of different psychiatric disorders. 

So, what is a psychedelic experience? Psychedelics allow the unconscious to become conscious: memories, grief, emotion, whatever is being hidden emerges (Watts, TED, 2017). Patients report three main types of experience: firstly visiting past traumas, secondly having insights about their life, negative patterns and how to change them and thirdly an experience of harmony, connection and unity (Watts, TED, 2017). 

A recent clinical trial reported that psilocybin-assisted therapy reduces depressive symptoms for treatment-resistant depression (Carhart-Harris et al., 2017). The participants attended two dosing sessions seven days apart: the first one was a low-dose session with 10 mg to get to know the substance and the second one a full-dose session with 25 mg. The participants were followed for 6 months after treatment. All of them showed some reduction of their depression scores at 1-week post-treatment and improvements persisted up to 6 months after treatment (Carhart-Harris et al., 2017). 

How does psilocybin act on the brain and what are the differences with SSRIs ? Psilocybin is a serotonergic psychedelic which activates an emotion-releasing pathway via 5-HT2AR receptor whilst SSRIs activate 5-HT1A receptor which allows an emotional blunting (Carhart-Harris & Goodwin, 2017): 

Figure 1: Carhart-Harris & Goodwin, 2017.

People with depression have cognitive and emotional biases and psilocybin may be a way to change negative patterns to reduce depressive symptoms. Another study reported that psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy improves emotional face recognition for treatment-resistant depression (Stroud et al., 2017). Moreover, the study showed that it improves symptoms of anhedonia (lack of pleasure or interest), which is yet relatively unresponsive to standard antidepressant treatments (Stroud et al., 2017). So, reconnecting with one’s environment and emotions induced by psilocybin could explain those improvements. 

To summarize, psilocybin acts rapidly as we can observe a reduction of depression scores already one week after treatment. Furthermore, its action persists with minimal exposure: indeed, positive effects persisted 6 months after the 25 mg session. These findings are promising. However, all these trials had a limited sample size. Future studies must have larger samples to generalize the results. 

Bibliography :
  • Carhart-Harris, R.L., Bolstridge, M., J.Day, C.M., Rucker, J., Watts, R., Erritzoe, D.E, Kaelen, M., Giribaldi, B., Bloomfield, M., Pilling, S., Rickard, J.A., Forbes, B., Feilding, A., Taylor, D., Curran, H.V., Nutt, D.J. Psilocybin with psychological support for treatment-resistant depression: six months follow-up. Psychopharmacolocy, 235, 399-408 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-017-4771-x
  • Carhart-Harris, R., Goodwin, G. The Therapeutic Potential of Psychedelic Drugs: Past, Present, and Future. Neuropsychopharmacol 42, 2105–2113 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/npp.2017.84
  • Stroud, J.B., Freeman, T.P., Leech, R., Hindocha, C., Lawn, W., Nutt, D.J., Curran, H.V., Carhart-Harris, R.L. Psilocybin with psychological support improves emotional face recognition in treatment-resistant depression. Psychopharmacology 235, 459–466 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-017-4754-y
  • Watts, R. (2017). Can Magic Mushroom Unlock Depression? Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kfGaVAXeMY
Featured image:
  • Malréchauffé, T., (2020, May 3). Mushrooms. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/pSTTFrTZ1Dg

Author : Johanna Henry

Categories
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Flow experience and how it can affect our well being

Perhaps one of the most troubling questions you can ask someone is if they’re happy. More often than not, the person feels the obligation to say yes. It is obvious that the question regarding our general well-being and happiness is not an easy one to answer and can’t be reduced to a yes or no, so I decided to give you a glimpse into some literature related to this. 

For quite some time now, psychologists have been tasked with studying and observing how different people respond to life’s events. How can some go through live so weightlessly and untroubled, while others have difficulty finding a reason to wake up in the morning. Most of us try to live our life striving for happiness, whatever that represents for each person. So, all possible socio-economic factors controlled, how can some achieve it easily while others have such a hard time. Well, it seems like part of the answer can be found in our personality type. 

Flow experience refers to an experience of deep absorption, engagement and enjoyment (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). It is characterized, among others, by a state of complete concentration, an increased sense of control and a loss of self-awareness (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997). According to the literature on flow experience, some people are more prone to experience it during their daily activities, which in turn is associated with higher levels of well-being. We can then ask ourselves why there is such a difference. According to several theorists, some people possess certain personal attributes that encourage the experience of flow. These include curiosity, persistence, low self-centeredness, enjoyment of challenges, attentional control and others (Tse, Nakamura & Csikszentmihalyi, 2020). A profile that corresponds to these attributes was coined under the term of autotelic personality (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). A recent study that measured autotelic personality, proneness to experiencing flow and well-being found a positive effect of autotelic personality on well-being (Tse, Nakamura & Csikszentmihalyi, 2020). What’s even more interesting is the fact that this relationship was mediated by the proneness to experiencing flow. If that’s so, why then don’t we engage more often in activities that facilitate the flow experience? Simple answer: we’re lazy. Indeed, another study showed that because flow activities require more effort than passive activities, people are simply not interested – despite knowing that the flow activities might lead to more happiness (Schiffer & Roberts, 2017). 

In conclusion, there seems to be some people who have the attributes to engage in a deeper level with their daily activities and who make the effort to become involved in more difficult tasks that lead to the so-known flow experience. I hope I succeeded in getting you interested in the topic and I hope you have a lot of flow experiences from now on – or at least now you know the term for that state when you’re playing music or writing your essay.

Bibliography
  • Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow. New York, NY: Harper and Row. 
  • Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997). Finding flow: The psychology of engagement with everyday life. New York, NY: Basic Books. 
  • Schiffer, L. P., & Roberts, T.-A. (2017). The paradox of happiness: Why are we not doing what we know makes us happy? The Journal of Positive Psychology, 13(3), 252-259. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2017.1279209
  • Tse, D. C. K., Nakamura, J., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2020). Living well by “flowing’ well : The indirect effect of autotelic personality on well-being through flow experience. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1-12. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2020.1716055
Featured image:
  • Johnson. S., [@samjsn], (2020, August 8). August. https://www.instagram.com/p/CDoYuA7nV7o/

Author: Paula Morales

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Why are some people left-handed?

Have you ever wondered why left-handed people are so rare? Everyone knows that right-handed people are more frequent than left-handed people. You may have heard different theories about how the handedness is determined, but you probably never heard of a theory explaining why left-handed people are so rare. Daniel M. Abram found a way to explain the small number of left-handed people with a mathematical model.

Only one out of ten people is left-handed. The fascinating thing is that this ratio has remained steady for the last 500’000 years. Until today, it is not exactly clear what determines the handedness. One thing we know, however, is that the handedness is nothing you can choose, it is given. Many different theories try to explain this. The observation that left-handed parents tend to have left-handed children more often than right-handed parents, can be explained either by the influence of genes or the environment. Studies with identical twins show that both genes and the environment influence handedness, since identical twins do not have the same dominant hand more often than other siblings do.

This implies that there must be a reason in evolution responsible for the small number of left-handed people. Daniel M. Abrams proposed a mathematical model, which suggests that the ratio of competitive and cooperative pressure is responsible for the small number of left-handed people. 

The advantages of left-handed people are most obvious when facing an opponent in combat or competitive sports. Because there are usually very few left-handed people, most athletes are used to train with right-handed people. When right-handed and left-handed people meet, the left-handed person will be better prepared than a right-handed opponent. Daniel M. Abrams showed that 50% of professional baseball players are left-handed. The imbalance, in the beginning, leads to an advantage for left-handed players. This is called the fighting hypothesis and is an example of negative frequency-dependent selection. The rarer a trait, the more valuable it is. But according to the rules of evolution, a group that has an advantage should grow until the advantage disappears. If all humans did was fight, natural selection would lead to more left-handed people. The number of left-handed people would grow until there would be so many of them that it would not be rare anymore and therefore left-handedness would not be an advantage anymore. Thus, in a purely competitive world, the ratio between left and right-handed people would be 50/50. 

However, human evolution is not only driven by competition but also by cooperation. Cooperative pressure pushes the handedness in the other direction. In golf, where performance does not depend on the opponent, only 4 percent of the top players are left-handed. The reason for this is a phenomenon called “tool sharing”. Many products and tools are made for right-handed people, as they also make up the majority of our society. Left-handed players are worse at using these tools. For this reason, left-handed people would be less successful in a purely cooperative world until they would no longer exist. 

To summarize, according to Abram’s mathematical theory, the stable number of left-handed people is seen as an equilibrium created by competitive and cooperative effects. 

Bibliography:
  • Abrams, D., (2015, February). Daniel Abrams : Why are some people left-handed ? Retrieved from
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  • Wiedmer, J., (2020). Handmade.

Author : Jessica Wiedmer

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Why do we dream?

What is a dream?

Dreams include thoughts, images, and emotions that are experienced during sleep. They can range in between extremely emotional to very fleeting, vague, or confusing. Some dreams are pleasant, while others are sad or frightening. Sometimes dreams tend to have a clear story, while many others tend to make no sense at all (Cherry, 2020). There are many unknowns about dreaming and sleeping. What scientists know is that almost everyone dreams every time they sleep, for about two hours a night in total, whether or not they remember it when they wake up (NINDS, 2019). The most vivid dreams occur during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and these are the dreams we are most likely to remember. We also dream during non-rapid eye movement (non-REM), but it is known that these dreams are less frequently remembered (De Gennaro et al., 2011). In general, the dream content is collected from the subjective memories of the dreamer upon awakening. Increasingly, objective measures are also used for observation. For example, researchers in one study created a rudimentary dream content map that was able to trace people’s dreams in real-time using a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) pattern, which was confirmed by the dreamers’ reports after waking up (Horikawa, Tamaki, Miyawaki, & Kamitani, 2013).

But apart from what is contained in a particular dream, the question arises as to why we dream at all.

Why do we dream?

The question of why we dream has fascinated various experts for thousands of years. Despite scientific studies on the function of dreams, there is still no clear response to why we have dreams. Although much about dreaming remains uncertain, many experts have developed theories to explain the purpose of dreaming and new empirical studies are also providing greater clarity. Some of the better-known dream theories state that the function of dreaming is to express our deepest desires, process emotions, consolidate memories, and gain practice in dealing with potential dangers (Cherry, 2020). Many claim that we dream from a combination of these and other factors rather than sticking to one singular theory. Moreover, while many researchers believe that dreams are essential for emotional, mental, and physical well-being, some scientists believe that dreams serve no useful purpose at all (Ruby, 2011).

Bibliography
  • Cherry, K. (2020). Why do we dream?. verywellmind. Retrieved July 22, 2020, from https://www.verywellmind.com/why-do-we-dream-top-dream-theories-2795931#citation-14
  • De Gennaro, L., Cipolli, C., Cherubini, A., Assogna, F., Cacciari, C., Marzano, C., . . . Spalletta, G. (2011). Amygdala and hippocampus volumetry and diffusivity in relation to dreaming. Human Brain Mapping, 32(9), 1458-1470. doi:10.1002/hbm.21120
  • Horikawa, T., Tamaki, M., Miyawaki, Y., & Kamitani, Y. (2013). Neural Decoding of Visual Imagery During Sleep. Science, 340(6132), 639-642. doi:10.1126/science.1234330
  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2019). Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep. Retrieved July 22, 2020, from https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-
    Caregiver-Education/Understanding-sleep
  • Ruby, P. (2011). Experimental Research on Dreaming: State of the Art and Neuropsychoanalytic Perspectives. Frontiers in Psychology, 2(286). doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00286
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Quelle: https://www.sleepcycle.com/how-to-fall-asleep/sleep-dream-and-boost-your-creativity/

Author: Alexander Ariu

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Opioids -The silent addiction

As a psychology student working with patients with addiction, I know a lot about the fate of our patients and how their addiction developed throughout their lives. I have always been interested in the turns someone’s life takes to lead them into an addiction, how they can overcome it and where they can find the motivation to do so. There is one story I have heard from some of our heroin-addicted patients and it made me wonder where it comes from. They had a normal and inconspicuous life before they started taking drugs. It all started when they were prescribed, opioid-based pain killers. 

Worldwide, especially in the United States, cases like the one described above exist. The problem is known as the opioid crisis.  In 2016 more than 42’000 people died in the United States alone, due to an overdose based on prescribed opioids. The World Health Organisation announced a public health emergency and programs to combat the epidemic. The problem stems from the 1990s when pharmaceutical companies downplayed the addictive effects of opioid-based pain-killers and sold them in great quantities. The problem isn’t restricted to the United States, Switzerland has also been widely affected. 

One of the side effects of consumption is the development of tolerance toward the opioids. To get the same pain releasing effect each time, the doses have to be taken in higher amounts. However, there is usually a limit on the legal prescription dose and even the highest amounts end up being insufficient in relieving pain. 

  • If you are interested in how the drug functions in the human body and how the tolerance development works, you can find out more here.

The affected people have the option to go through a withdrawal (which is very painful – see video below). Therefore, a lot of patients end up reaching for other opioid-based drugs like heroin. This shift in substances leads to more uncontrolled consumption and overdoses. The development of an opium addiction is a gradual process and most of the patients are not aware of it until it is too late. It can happen to anyone. 

  • If you want to know more about the symptoms and the withdrawal of an opioid addiction, you can check out Travis Rieder’s TED-Talk. He talks about his personal experiences during his opioid withdrawal and explains the stages a lot of patients go through very accurately. 

As a budding psychologist, you might be confronted with the ongoing problem if you are working with addiction or chronic-pain patients. Moreover, if you are working in prevention, this is certainly a subject on which awareness should be raised, for patients as well as society. 

Bibiography

U.S. Department of Health and Human Service. 2020.  https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/about-the-epidemic/index.html

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Quelle: https://pixabay.com/de/photos/thermometer-kopfschmerzen-schmerz-1539191/

Author: Carla Wüthrich

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Mindfulness in Therapy

You may have heard about mindfulness before, but not be sure what it is. Meditation and mindfulness are used a lot in spiritual contexts but have been adapted to be used in a secular, therapeutic context. Probably the most strongly established form is MBSR (Mindfulness-based stress reduction) as well as MBCT (Mindfulness-based cognitive training) developed by Kabat-Zinn.  Kabat-Zinn was a professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and is the founding father of mindfulness-based stress reduction, which he developed in the 70s. In this article, I am going to introduce what MBSR is, what it can be helpful for, and then introduce some resources to let you try out mindfulness on your own.

What is MBSR/MBCT and how useful is it?

Forms may vary, but the form that I am going to introduce here is the 8-week, group-based, in-person program, which originated at the  University of Massachusetts Medical School. The course focuses on new aspects every week and introduces new forms of practice as well as a space to reflect personal behavioral patterns as well as thought patterns. The practice takes place in a group and in private and consists of exercises like mindful yoga, body scans, mindful eating (raisin exercise), and sitting meditation. According to Kabat Zinn, 7 attitudes are important to cultivate, including non-striving, acceptance and trust. (For more information on the attitudes see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2n7FOBFMvXg). While mindfulness can be beneficial for all, the MBSR and MBCT programs are starting to be applied in clinical settings more and more. They are used for patients suffering from depression, chronic pain, cancer substance abuse, and much more. Nevertheless, when it comes to studies concerning the effectiveness of these therapies, there is a need for more research. Hempel et al. (2014) created an overview of the results found in research so far. Their overview shows, that there seems to be evidence of potential positive effects when using MBSR/MBCT to treat depression, pain and anxiety. However, when it comes to stress, cancer in general and substance use, the results are mixed. In conclusion, while MBSR/MBCT seems to help treat depression and pain patients, more research is required, as there is unclear evidence when it comes to other illnesses like cancer or substance abuse. 

Resources 

 There are many ways to give mindfulness a shot. You can stroll into your bookstore, where there are many books including theoretical backgrounds as well as guided practices or search the internet. Here are a few digital resources for you to try:

Hopefully, these resources help get you started. Enjoy!

BIbiographY

Hempel, S., Taylor, S. L., Marshall, N. J., Miake-Lye, I. M., Beroes, J. M., Shanman, R., … & Shekelle, P. G. (2014). Evidence map of mindfulness. Washington DC: Department of Veterans Affairs, Health Services Research & Development Service.

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Quelle: https://www.elsevier.com/connect/atlas/can-mindfulness-based-interventions-help-women-victims-of-violence

Author: Sabrina Sovilla

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Resilience

Resilience in developmental psychology refers to the ability of children to develop normally despite stressful circumstances and conditions. In general, resilience is the ability of people to react appropriately and flexibly to changing life situations and demands and to master difficult, frustrating and stressful situations without psychological consequences. Individual differences in resilience can then explain why some people do not experience such consequences despite stress, which means that the topic of resilience in the broadest sense can be counted among the topics of positive psychology (Stangl, 2020).

The origins of resilience research go back to the 1950s when the American developmental psychologist Emmy Werner began a study on the Hawaiian island of Kauai in which she observed 698 boys and girls over four decades whose chances of living a successful life were poor because of neglect, poverty, and abuse. Often the marriages of the parents were troubled, no money was available, many parents were addicted to alcohol. But in the end, there was a big surprise, because normally one would have predicted a sad fate for the children, but since this long-term study, it was clear that even if the conditions are bad, some people master their lives well. A third of Kauai’s children grew up into caring, self-confident and capable adults, both in their jobs and in personal relationships. The strong children of Kauai had something that the others did not have. There was at least one loving caregiver to take care of them, whereby the confidant does not necessarily have to be a mother or father, but another caregiver can also fill this role (one significant other). (Werner & Smith, 2001). Werner summarized her findings in three protective factors:

  • A temperament and an average intelligence that has a positive effect on parents/caregivers. In this context, certain energy, robustness and a socially binding nature are also mentioned, because children who possess these qualities receive more positive attention from their parents or caregivers (Werner & Smith, 2001).
  • An emotional bond with the parents or substitute caregivers who encouraged the children to trust and be independent. This also included the children’s conviction that they were responsible for their own successes. This conviction enables adolescents to react actively to adverse circumstances and also to seek out people who can give them advice (Werner & Smith, 2001).
  • The support of society, which provides sustainable values, whereby schools, in particular, have a strong influence on the development of children’s resilience by recognizing and rewarding their skills. This aspect shows the responsibility of society in terms of forming resilient skills in children (Werner & Smith, 2001).
Resilience in everyday life

For the individual, being a resilient person means being able to deal successfully with stressful life events and with the negative consequences of stress. It is crucial not to be discouraged by resistance in life, but to learn from it and integrate these experiences into one’s own life. A basic or basic trust that is formed in childhood is important for this, but the genetic make-up also determines the mental resistance. 

Resilient people often have good relationships with friends and partners and have a positive self-image of themselves. These people have a broader interest, are disciplined, tend to be less catastrophic and also look for positive aspects when faced with negative life events. Persistent negative feelings, long-lasting dissatisfaction, and tension contribute to mental illness, while a positive mood promotes and relaxes creative thinking (Stangl, 2020). Resilience research gives some practical recommendations:

  • Friends and a social life that surround you is crucial.
  • Develop a sense of non-material values.
  • Positive feelings like cheerfulness, humor, fascination, and love can neutralize negative events.
  • Asking yourself whether everything you have taken on in your daily life is still relevant and whether you enjoy doing it. Admittedly, every job or obligation also involves unpleasant activities, although this is only problematic if the negative clearly predominates.

In the opinion of experts, resilience can be learned to a certain extent and can also be increased in adults by solution orientation, promoting optimism, and the assumption of responsibility. Especially in children, resilience factors can be promoted, which a child acquires in interaction with the environment and through the successful accomplishment of age-specific developmental tasks (Stangl, 2020).

Following factors strengthen children and increase their resistance (Fröhlich-Gildhoff & Rönnau-Böse, 2009): 

  • Self-control capability
  • Social skills
  • Positive self-perception
  • Problem-solving competence
  • Conviction of self-efficacy
  • Appropriate management of stress
Bibliography
  • Fröhlich-Gildhoff, K. & Rönnau-Böse, M. (2009). Resilienz. München: Reinhardt. 
  • Stangl, W. (2020). Resilienz. Online Lexikon für Psychologie und Pädagogik. Retrieved March 10, 2020, from https://lexikon.stangl.eu/593/resilienz/
  • Werner, E. E. & Smith, R. S. (2001). Journeys from childhood to midlife: Risk, resilience, and recovery. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
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Quelle: https://safety4sea.com/cm-building-resilience-dealing-with-a-crisis/

Author: Alexander Ariu

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ZETA Movement – young for mental health

To be interested in health psychology means for me to care about mental health in our society. The WHO announced depression as the leading cause of diseases by 2030. In Switzerland, one-fifth of all inhabitants are affected by a mental disorder.

But have you ever heart speaking someone about it in public or even in private conversations?

It is still a big taboo in our society and most people remain silent out of fear to get stigmatized. As it happens with a lot of the global challenges today, people start to talk about it on the internet. It gives them a platform to speak openly about their experiences and to connect with others affected.

Out of this idea of connection, ZETA Movement was created by a group of young people who didn’t want to remain silent about this global issue. It all started at a workshop against stigmatization where the founders of the movement met. They all had direct or indirect experienced what it means to suffer from mental illness and where thereby aware of the social stigma around it. They decided to create a social movement and an open community where members could speak freely about all the issues and challenges, they have experienced with it.

The name ZETA was developed out of the thought that generation Z should be the last generation that is impacted by social stigmatization of mental health issues.

Therefore, ZETA works with the concept of open communication and storytelling. The core idea is to build up a community where “ambassadors” can share their personal experiences with mental health issues. Their goal is to be operative in schools and other youth-related organizations. Furthermore, the associations will focus on the building of a community, the organization of training courses for the ambassadors, and the organization and mediation between ambassadors and authorities.

Like any other social movement, ZETA can just achieve it’s goals if there are young people out there which are interested in being part of a movement and which feel responsible for the mental health of our society. If you have new ideas or inputs, if you are impacted in the topic and you would like to become an ambassador, or if you want to be part of the association, ZETA is happy about every input and new member they can reach to achieve their global goal. There is still a lot to do and help can be needed from everyone so don’t hesitate to get in touch. Rather Either on social media or you can directly contact the board by e-mail.

Page: www.zetamovement.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ZETAmovement

Instagram: zeta.movement

E-Mail: zeta.movement@gmail.com

Author: Carla Wüthrich

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Some psychological perspectives on the corona virus

We assume that during the last days, you have wrestled with a lot of questions, as we probably all did and maybe some of them were highly psychological in their nature. The field of psychology has a lot to say about all kind of areas that are currently making headlines and are relevant for our society, as we are navigating through this exceptional time. That’s why we decided to give you a brief compilation of some interesting content in this respect.

Below, you will find descriptions of some absorbing articles (along with their hyperlinks) about psychology and its contributions for the fight against the current corona virus outbreak. 

The Federation of Swiss Psychologists (FSP) has published an important article about mental health and self-care during quarantine. On their webpage, you will find valuable materials, such as contact details from professional aid providers and practical advice for coping with isolation and anxiety (Note: On the website below the article, you can switch to another language). We also highly recommend you to visit dureschnufe.ch, a special platform for mental health in connection with the corona virus.

Maybe you or someone you know is currently working in home-office and therefore has to deal with quite unusual working-conditions, depending on their experiences with working from home. In order to adjust to this situation, one should particularly look for advice from an occupational psychologist. Here you’ll find an article that provides you exactly that. Also, since all universities are closed for an unforeseeable time, it might be useful for all of us to implement some of these tips in our daily routines, as well.  

As you clicked through the internet, you might have encountered some rare or even strange theories about why the world is now dealing with this global pandemic. Here, too, psychology has a lot to offer, as it attempts to explain why people come up with such a variety of highly alternative and often paradoxical theories about major events, such as the corona virus outbreak. We came across two contributions to this intriguing topic, another article published by FSP, and a radio show aired on SRF 1.

Lastly, we would like to present you some initiatives that allow you to use your particular skills and become active during the current crisis. If you are interested in voluntarily supporting people who are struggling with social isolation or medical workers by providing an open ear to them, click on the links! Also, if you want to help your local hospital, here’s a possibility to do that.

We hope you will find this material as valuable and interesting as we did. The psyCH-team wishes you to stay healthy and we will go on with providing you gripping and useful articles in the upcoming weeks.

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Personality tests – fraud or meaningful help?

In the context of recruitment procedures, most people have already had to deal with personality tests. Since personality tests have their origin in the diagnostic and therapy of mental disorders there are still prejudices against such procedures. In the USA it has been a common practice to take such tests. Furthermore, in Germany, the decision-making process which a personality test can provide is gratefully accepted by more and more companies. There is a wide range of testing methods available, and so there are some serious and reliable tests as well as several tests that are less useful or not useful at all.

This small blog entry is about giving an overview of personality tests, where they can be used, what kind of tests are available and what you should consider (quality criteria, manipulability …).

Use of personality tests

First of all, it is important to realize that such a screening alone cannot reflect whether a candidate is a suitable candidate for the job. Nor is it possible to capture the entire character. The personality tests merely help to confirm the impression gained from the application and interview and/or to provide additional information. However, assisting in the selection and placement of personnel is by no means the only purpose for which personality profiles can be useful. Personality tests are used in the preparation of an application procedure, in the creation of competency models and requirement profiles. Also, they can be informative in questions of career planning and management development. These tests are also used more often for training (especially team development), coaching and career counseling. In all these applications, personality profiles serve as a basis for feedback processes and/or as a supplement to the basis for decision-making. Additionally, a self-test can be helpful in structuring and supplementing self-image and requirements to illustrate one’s strengths, weaknesses, and potential.

Types of personality tests

A distinction is made between projective and objective personality tests.

Projective tests: Projective test procedures work with ambiguous pictures, abstract patterns or drawings. In such a test the participants should describe what they see. In this way, they project their experiences, feelings, and conflicts into the test material. A well-known projective test is the Rorschach test, in which inkblot images are interpreted individually. This type of personality analysis is unsuitable for personnel management and is rarely used in clinical practice.

Objective tests: Objective personality tests are usually questionnaire-based procedures that are relatively simple to carry out, but the evaluation (with the help of software) is quite complex. These questionnaire procedures consist of questions and statements on which comments must be made.

An example

  • Question: I am often uncertain about my decisions.
  • Answer possibilities: from does not agree at all to agrees exactly (e.g. 1-6)

The personality traits of a test person determined in this way can then be compared with the average values of a norm sample and/or existing requirement profiles.

Quality features

Serious and informative personality tests can be recognized by the following quality criteria.

  • Objectivity: The result must be independent of the test instructor and the test conditions are always the same for all participants.
  • Validity (=expressiveness): How accurate is the test in its statements? A test is valid if it measures exactly the characteristics it is supposed to measure.
  • Reliability (=measurement accuracy): If a test is repeated with the same answers, the same result should be obtained.

If one of these quality criteria is not sufficiently applied, the test can be described as not being of good quality.

Possible factors that could falsify the test
  • Manipulability: Particularly in the area of employee selection, but also all other areas of application, there is always the problem of manipulability of the results by the respondent. This is mainly due to the fact that the questions almost always show which characteristics the answers show and which of them are positively evaluated for the respective purpose. A good test procedure for personality analysis is therefore characterized by the presence of control questions that recognize the logic (inner coherence) of the answering behavior and would indicate possible manipulation.
  • Language problems: Unnecessarily complicated formulations, long sentences, double negations, and passive formulations can lead to linguistic misunderstandings and misinterpretation. A good personality test tries to avoid these traps as much as possible.
  • Social desirability: Most people want to please and thus tend to give answers that are considered positive and desirable. In personality tests, this desire to make a good impression can falsify the results. This type of falsification differs from conscious manipulation in that it is unconscious and unintentional. The impairment due to social desirability can be reduced and controlled with control scales. Such control scales consist of questions about behavior that is rarely found but which is socially desirable (e.g. always washing your hands before eating) and behavior that is common even though it is socially undesirable (e.g. the use of white lies).

Despite these potential sources of mistakes, personality tests can be a practical tool and minimize errors of judgment if they are conducted solidly and seriously. However, it is important to be aware of their limitations and weaknesses and never apply them in isolation or view the results dogmatically.

Bibliography

Dibbern, H. (2016). Persönlichkeitstests – Sinnvolle Hilfe oder Humbug?. Retrieved December 29, 2019, https://www.hoppe7.de/blog/persoenlichkeitstests-sinnvolle-hilfe-oder-humbug

Author: Alexander Ariu

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Psychology’s role in environmental issues

Climate change, which has been increasingly identified in recent decades, confronts us with one of the greatest challenges of our time. International agreements such as the Paris Climate Conference in 2015 have already taken the first decisive steps towards a more sustainable energy policy. Switzerland has also recognized the need to change its energy policy and has initiated the transition of the energy system with its “Energy Strategy 2050”. However, the success of this energy system transformation depends not only on the development and expansion of new infrastructures and technologies but also on fundamental changes in consumer behavior and decision-making patterns. The potential for such changes is huge: the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences estimate that energy consumption could be reduced by up to 30 percent by 2050 compared with 2010. Behavioral sciences, and psychology, in particular, have the potential to make a major contribution to energy system transformation by providing information on the mechanisms underlying consumer behavior and the factors that favor the behavioral changes needed to reduce energy consumption (Brosch & Mertens, 2017).

Previous approaches to promote more sustainable energy consumption have focused on providing information and financial incentives. For example, the Swiss Federal Office of Energy provides brochures on the subject of energy saving. Additionally, some Swiss cantons support the purchase of energy-efficient vehicles with tax benefits. However, research in behavioral economics and psychology has repeatedly shown that consumers only behave rationally to a limited extent, especially when it comes to complex issues such as climate protection. Therefore, these measures only partially achieve the desired behavioral changes among consumers. In recent years, the effectiveness of so-called “nudging” has therefore been increasingly investigated. These are interventions that, through small changes in the decision-making environment, can lead to more energy-efficient decisions and behaviors without creating financial incentives or restricting consumer choice through prohibitions (Brosch & Mertens, 2017).

An example of such a nudge is the so-called “default effect” (= the tendency to keep the default settings). In one study, two economists show that the careful selection of defaults in the energy sector can also be an extremely effective way of persuading consumers to make more sustainable decisions. As part of the study, around 42,000 households were able to choose between different tariffs of an energy supplier. Each of these tariffs offered the option of purchasing electricity from renewable energy sources for a small additional charge. Consumers who already were pre-selected with this “green” add-on option were ten times more likely to use renewable electricity than consumers who first had to actively choose this option (Brosch & Mertens, 2017).

How can this effect be explained? One explanation is that consumers see the pre-selection of certain options as a standard or recommendation. The two economists offer a further explanation: The conscious decision against a green electricity tariff, which should be preferred from a moral point of view, could be much more difficult for consumers than not to choose this tariff if there are no defaults (Brosch & Mertens, 2017).

In this example, a study of environmental psychological interventions by economists was briefly described. However, economists are not the only ones who deal with environmental psychological interventions. Other professional groups are also involved in such interventions, such as environmental psychologists.

Environmental psychologists deal both with the influences of the environment on humans and with the influences of humans on the environment. In the psychological sense, the environment is regarded as the outer physical-material and sociocultural habitat of humans. Accordingly, this does not only mean the “natural” environment but also, for example, the urban areas (Netzwerk Psychologie und Umwelt, 2019).

Environmental psychological research relates to topics such as the perception, assessment, and design of environments. Thus, environmental psychology provides a crucial contribution to explaining, understanding and predicting environmental human behavior and experience. Environmental psychology is very interdisciplinary, application-oriented and has high relevance for society as a whole due to its broad range of topics (Netzwerk Psychologie und Umwelt, 2019).

Topics for environmental-psychological questions are for example:

  • Environmental perception and assessment
  • Environmental planning, environmental design, participation processes
  • Spatial behavior and mobility
  • Environmental awareness and environmental protection behavior
  • Environmental education and influencing environmentally relevant behavior
  • Mediation in environmental conflicts
  • Evaluation of environmental actions

 (Netzwerk Psychologie und Umwelt, 2019).

Bibliography:
  • Brosch, T., & Mertens, S. (2017). Kleine Intervention mit grosser Wirkung – Green Nudges als Feinjustierungen am Anpassungsmechanismus an sozialen Normen. Psychoscope, (3), 10 – 13.
  • Netzwerk Psychologie und Umwelt (2019). Was ist Umweltpsychologie?. Retrieved December 14, 2019, from http://www.umweltpsychologie.at/?page_id=889
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Author: Alexander Ariu

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Update coverage of psychotherapeutic care

On 26 June 2019, the Federal Council instructed the Federal Department of Home Affairs (FDHA) to conduct a consultation procedure on the adjustment of the Ordinance on Health Insurance and the Ordinance on Nursing Benefits on the revision of psychological psychotherapy as part of obligatory health insurance (OHI). The consultation draft contains a new regulation on psychological psychotherapy within the framework of the OHI. Psychological psychotherapists who are licensed to perform psychotherapy should be able to provide all psychotherapeutic services independently and on their own account on the basis of a medical prescription. So far, the basic insurance only covers these costs if the service is performed under the supervision of a doctor (BAG, 2019).

Psychotherapists welcome the Federal Council’s proposal to restructure psychological psychotherapy. The amendment helps to eliminate the existing supply problems in rural areas and among children and young people. However, psychotherapists, professional associations and students have concerns about the current proposal. Until October 17th, 2019 (end of the consultation period), comments could be sent electronically to sub-offices of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) electronically (BAG, 2019). An aspect which is disturbing about the current proposal, for the professional associations FSP and SBAP for example, is that the regulation has issued an order for only fifteen meetings. Hence, a doctor’s appointment would have to be arranged again after only fifteen sessions in order to be prescribed another fifteen sessions. This would be cost-increasing, without creating additional benefit, as well as disadvantaging psychological psychotherapists compared to medical service providers (FSP, 2019). There is also resistance among experts concerning the regulation that a report should now be sent to the doctor of the health insurance company after 30 sessions so that the therapy can be continued. Here the professional associations demand that the previous arrangement of 40 meetings should be maintained, as this has proven to be successful in practice and the limitation of 30 meetings could cause additional work and costs (FSP, 2019).

Bibliography:
  • Bundesamt für Gesundheit (BAG) (2019). Änderung KVV und KLV betreffend Neuregelung der psychologischen Psychotherapie und der Zulassungsvoraussetzungen nicht-ärztlicher Leistungserbringer. Retrieved on 27 October 2019. https://www.bag.admin.ch/bag/de/home/versicherungen/krankenversicherung/krankenversicherung-revisionsprojekte/aenderungen-psychotherapie-nichtaerztlicheleistungserbringer.html
  • Föderation der Schweizer Psychologinnen und Psychologen (FSP) (2019). Position der FSP zum Verordnungsentwurf zur neuen Psychotherapieregelung. Retrieved on 27 October 2019. https://www.psychologie.ch/position-der-fsp-zum-verordnungsentwurf-zur-neuen-psychotherapieregelung

Author: Alexander Ariu

Categories
current directions

News in psychology – the good, the bad and the bigly

It’s been almost 8 years since the replication crisis has plunged psychology into a serious scientific crisis. Ironically, by now, one of the most replicable findings in psychology is that only half of the psychological studies can be successfully replicated. While some find themselves either in despair or in denial about this circumstance, I would argue that this is rather a huge opportunity to rethink, renew and complement our methodology. We’re so used to applying alleged gold-standard testing paradigms that originate in the 40ies to the 60ies of the last century that we’ve gone somewhat blind to the new and amazing construction kit that IT and the virtual world are offering us for conducting observations on a completely new scale. The internet has connected the world and allows us to go way beyond the confinements of small-scale brick and mortar lab-based psychology experiments. Taken together that constitutes an option package that allows us to put psychological research on a completely new footing. One, that can provide the evidence we currently still owe, if we only examine WEIRD people in small groups. Now, we can not only conduct field research globally with hundreds of thousands of study participants simultaneously, we can also continuously interact with them and ask them time and again: All we have to do is being bold enough to use the new opportunities and work closely together with all the necessary different professional groups to make this happen.

Yet, two requirements are central for such a web-based world-wide research endeavour to be truly successful:

  1. The whole setup needs to focus on the user experience and benefit of the study subjects. This may well be in the form of “infotainment”, as the typical monetary compensation for tediously boring experimental setups is simply out of question for ultra-large global cohorts.
  2. Collecting psychological and thus personal and highly sensitive data on a global scale needs a failsafe forward-looking data protection policy and guaranteed anonymity.

The first point can be addressed by using psychological instruments in the guise of entertaining computer games and automation of analyses that can provide individually tailored and understandable feedback to everyone taking part. In addition, the interesting research results drawn from such a project should also be made directly accessible to the general public, which made them possible in the first place.

The second point is as much about citizen empowerment as educating them about how their minds work but requires an additional independent institution to guarantee data privacy by system design: The personally identifying data should always be strictly separated from the completely anonymized “content data”. Basically, the complete opposite of Facebook and the likes: It must not be possible to turn your data into a business model without your clear consent or without giving you the lion’s share of the earnings. Advancience is a startup that is based on the COSMOS research project from the University of Basel. We’re a group of scientists that have learned that our research goals that require scaling-up psychological studies are easier to achieve, if we go down the entrepreneurial road. The Healthbank Cooperative is our strategic partner that ensures that the data generators themselves own the data and are always in charge of how their data is being used.

Together we’re building the research basis of the future for social sciences that will be open for all publicly funded scientists to use. Get ready to think big: What would you investigate, if you had a cohort of more than 100 k individuals that you can ask?

Author: Dr. Christian Vogler