Science of the Spirit


How unwanted negative thoughts could be treated by changing memories

Cutting-edge research explores how memories can be modified after recall.

Hope for effectively treating unwanted negative thoughts may come from new techniques that can alter vivid, long-established memories.

Unwanted negative thoughts are core components of problems like addictions and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In PTSD, people suffer from frequent intrusions of traumatic memories from, for example, a car crash or other violent event.

In addictions, people's behaviour is strongly influenced by memories of drug-taking and these motivate their future actions.

These are more extreme versions of the everyday occurrence of having flashbacks to embarrassing moments, or other painful episodes we've experienced.

Comment: Not only unwanted thoughts and trauma, but our life narratives, which are in part based on older interpretations of memories consolidated in a less complete understanding, can be 'reconsolidated': Writing to Heal.

Also, see the forum for discussion of Timothy D. Wilson's - Redirect: The surprising new science of psychological change


In our digital world, are young people losing the ability to read emotions?

© Stephen Nowicki
Students in the study looked at photos and were tested on their ability to recognize the emotions of those pictured.
Children's social skills may be declining as they have less time for face-to-face interaction due to their increased use of digital media, according to a UCLA psychology study.

UCLA scientists found that sixth-graders who went five days without even glancing at a smartphone, television or other digital screen did substantially better at reading human emotions than sixth-graders from the same school who continued to spend hours each day looking at their electronic devices.

"Many people are looking at the benefits of digital media in education, and not many are looking at the costs," said Patricia Greenfield, a distinguished professor of psychology in the UCLA College and senior author of the study. "Decreased sensitivity to emotional cues -- losing the ability to understand the emotions of other people -- is one of the costs. The displacement of in-person social interaction by screen interaction seems to be reducing social skills."

The research will be in the October print edition of Computers in Human Behavior and is already published online.

8 strategies that help with unwanted negative thoughts

negative thoughts
© Shifteye
Research shows that thought suppression doesn't work, so how can you cast out irritating repetitive thoughts?

It's one of the irritations of having a mind that sometimes bad thoughts get stuck going around in it.

It could be a mistake at work, money worries or perhaps a nameless fear. Whatever the anxiety, fear or worry, it can prove very difficult to control.

The most intuitive method for dealing with it is using thought suppression: we try to push it out of our minds.

Unfortunately, as many studies have shown, thought suppression doesn't work. Ironically, trying to push thoughts out of mind only makes them come back stronger. It's a very frustrating finding, but one that's been replicated experimentally again and again.

So, what alternatives exist to get rid of thoughts we'd rather not have going around in our heads?

In an article for American Psychologist, the expert on thought suppression, Daniel Wegner, explains some potential methods for tackling persistent unwanted thoughts (Wegner, 2011). Here are my favourite:

Comment: Strategies 2, 5 and 6, besides being the most effective against negative thought, are all encompassed by the Eiriu Eolas program. Suggestion 8 is also good. The Pennebaker writing exercises are an excellent format.

Magic Wand

A telling sign of our times: Number of 'suicide tourists' goes up in Switzerland

suicide tourists
A pilot study in the Journal of Medical Ethics has found that the number of so-called "suicide tourists" coming to Switzerland for assisted suicide services doubled between 2008 and 2012. During that time period, 611 foreigners committed assisted suicide with the help of Swiss organisations.

Of those, 268 came from Germany, 126 from Britain, 66 from France, 44 from Italy and 21 from the United States, the study said. Overall, foreigners seeking assisted suicide in Switzerland between 2008 and 2012 stemmed from 31 countries.

The pilot study set out to determine the age, gender and country of origin of people who travelled from other countries to Switzerland to seek assisted suicide services, as well as what diseases they were suffering from, using the databases at the University of Zurich's Institute of Legal Medicine. It also sought to examine what effects suicide tourism may have on changes to existing regulations in foreign countries.

Difficulty assessing effort drives motivation deficits in schizophrenia

Individuals with schizophrenia often have trouble engaging in daily tasks or setting goals for themselves, and a new study suggests the reason might be their difficulty in assessing the amount of effort required to complete tasks.
Individuals with schizophrenia often have trouble engaging in daily tasks or setting goals for themselves, and a new study from San Francisco State University suggests the reason might be their difficulty in assessing the amount of effort required to complete tasks.

The research, detailed in an article published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, can assist health professionals in countering motivation deficits among patients with schizophrenia and help those patients function normally by breaking up larger, complex tasks into smaller, easier-to-grasp ones.

"This is one of the first studies to carefully and systematically look at the daily activities of people with schizophrenia -- what those people are doing, what goals are they setting for themselves," said David Gard, an associate professor of psychology at SF State who has spent years researching motivation and emotion. "We knew that people with schizophrenia were not engaging in a lot of goal-directed behavior. We just didn't know why."

Comment: The reader might be interested in reading the following articles:

Schizophrenia and gluten sensitivity - Is there a connection?

Jumping DNA in brain may be cause of schizophrenia


The toxic influence of a psychopath: Abusive leadership infects entire team

Supervisors who are abusive to individual employees can actually throw the entire work team into conflict, hurting productivity, finds new research led by a Michigan State University business scholar.

The study, conducted in China and the United States, suggests the toxic effect of nonphysical abuse by a supervisor is much broader than believed. Published online in the Journal of Applied Psychology, it's one of the first studies to examine the effect of bad bosses in employee teams. Teams are increasingly popular in the business world.

Lead investigator Crystal Farh said supervisors who belittle and ridicule workers not only negatively affect those workers' attitudes and behaviors, but also cause team members to act in a similar hostile manner toward one another.

"That's the most disturbing finding," Farh said, "because it's not just about individual victims now, it's about creating a context where everybody suffers, regardless of whether you were individually abused or not."



Networking: Enhanced communication key to successful teamwork in dynamic environments
From management consulting projects to research and development laboratories to hospital trauma centers, organizations of all types are increasingly creating teams whose members have diverse professional backgrounds. While the allure of these cross-functional teams is their ability to use their diverse knowledge to solve complex problems, not all such teams are able to reach their full potential.

According to new research led by Christian Resick, PhD, an associate professor of management in Drexel University's LeBow College of Business, these teams need to master the art of "information elaboration" discussions. Only through openly exchanging relevant information and ideas, seeking clarification on perspectives offered by others, and discussing and integrating this information and feedback, will specialized cross-functional teams be able to capitalize on their diverse knowledge resources and achieve success, particularly when their projects are dynamic or face disruptive challenges. Together with co-authors Toshio Murase and Leslie A. DeChurch of the Georgia Institute of Technology and Banner Health's Kenneth R. Randall, Resick published a paper entitled, "Information Elaboration and Team Performance: Examining the Psychological Origins and Environmental Contingencies," in the July 2014 issue of Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

How Psychedelics Saved My Life

Amber Lyon is an Emmy Award-winning former CNN investigative news correspondent.
I invite you to take a step back and clear your mind of decades of false propaganda. Governments worldwide lied to us about the medicinal benefits of marijuana. The public has also been misled about psychedelics.

These non-addictive substances- MDMA, ayahuasca, ibogaine, psilocybin mushrooms, peyote, and many more- are proven to rapidly and effectively help people heal from trauma, PTSD, anxiety, addiction and depression.

Psychedelics saved my life.

My Experience with Anxiety and PTSD Symptoms

I was drawn to journalism at a young age by the desire to provide a voice for the 'little guy'. For nearly a decade working as a CNN investigative correspondent and independent journalist, I became a mouthpiece for the oppressed, victimized and marginalized. My path of submersion journalism brought me closest to the plight of my sources, by living the story to get a true understanding of what was happening.

After several years of reporting, I realized an unfortunate consequence of my style- I had immersed myself too deeply in the trauma and suffering of the people I'd interviewed. I began to have trouble sleeping as their faces appeared in my darkest dreams. I spent too long absorbed in a world of despair and my inability to deflect it allowed the trauma of others to settle inside my mind and being. Combine that with several violent experiences while working in the field and I was at my worst. A life reporting on the edge had led me to the brink of my own sanity.

Because I could not find a way to process my anguish, it grew into a monster, manifesting itself into a constant state of anxiety, short-term memory loss, sleeplessness, and hyper arousal. The heart palpitations made me feel like I was knocking on death's door.

Human LSD research resumes "above board" for first time in 40 years

© Getty
The psychedelic drug LSD can be "valuable as tools to understand the mind", say scientists.
For the first time in more than 40 years, scientists are conducting human research using the psychedelic drug LSD in the United Kingdom.

According to the Independent Dr Robin Carhart-Harris of Imperial College, London presented his research to colleagues in June. He showed them MRI images of the brain of a human subject who was under the influence of LSD.

"We've only looked at six brains so far," Carhart-Harris told the newspaper. "We're at an early, but certainly promising, stage. It's really exciting," he said.

It's the first time that the compound has been used in human research since the act banning it came into force in 1971.
People 2

The surprising impact of weight loss on the emotions

jogging beach
© mikebaird/Flickr
A new study of almost 2,000 overweight and obese adults in the UK has found that those who lost weight were unhappier than those who remained within 5% of their original weight (Jackson et al., 2014).

Although they were physically healthier four years later - with lower blood pressure and reduced risk of heart disease - those who lost weight were likely to be less happy.

Comment: Is it any wonder, when the way most people try to lose weight these days is through low fat, severe caloric restriction involving chronic cardio and eating rabbit food, whilst depriving their brains of essential nutrients required for happy neurotransmitters, such as animal proteins and cholesterol?

For information on ways to lift one's mood, see:

- Can a ketogenic diet really fight depression? Low-carb, high fat foods shown to drastically improve mental health
- Face life with Éiriú Eolas, a stress relief program