Minding the Media Articles

Are Moods & Emotions ‘Contagious’ on Facebook?

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

Are Moods & Emotions 'Contagious' on Facebook?Some news outlets are blaring that a new study recently published demonstrates moods are “contagious” on online social networks, like Facebook. Parroting the tone and talking points from the news release on the study, it appears nobody bothered to read the actual study before doing their reporting on it.

However, it doesn’t take an empirical study to understand that our moods impact one another. If you’re depressed and you live with your family, your depressed mood is going to affect your family. If you’re manic and hang out with your friends, chances are some of that manic energy is going to rub off on them.

We would expect that same thing to occur online, wouldn’t we?

Barriers to Mental Health Treatment: Stigma or Self-Sufficiency?

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014


While some media outlets are reporting that a recently published study implicates mental health stigma as one of the primary reasons for people not seeking out treatment, that’s only a part of the story.

Glossed over by most media reports of the study is that the study actually found larger barriers to treatment that pale in comparison next to the concept of “stigma” (or, more accurately, discrimination and prejudice).

Let’s take a quick look…

Overselling the Benefits of Mindfulness

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Bored to TearsJust a few days ago I realized I was bored with the Internet and my mobile devices.

Together they have contributed to my font of trivial knowledge. But it has been a very long time since I delved deeply enough into a topic to fully understand it, or to contribute to it with original ideas.

And perhaps most important, I have been losing my sense of nuance. All discourse seems to fall on one side or the other. Intellectually, I have been anything but mindful. In fact, the constant barrage of information, updates, and check-ins, and my 24-hour availability (and that of everyone I know) have turned me into a cognitive fight-or-flight machine.

Why Getting Good Mental Health Treatment is Complicated

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Why Getting Good Mental Health Treatment is ComplicatedAs long-time readers of World of Psychology know, there’s no easy fix to the convoluted, second-class mental health care system in the United States. People with mental disorders — like depression, anxiety, ADHD or bipolar disorder — are shunted away from the mainstream healthcare system into a patchwork quilt of “care” that varies greatly depending upon where you live, what kind of insurance you have (if you have any), and whether you want to pay cash for treatment instead of using your insurance.

It shouldn’t be this way. It shouldn’t be so hard to find a good treatment provider. It shouldn’t be so complicated to get integrated care from a single practice.

Why is it so hard to get good mental health treatment in the U.S.?

Does that Cat Bite Mean You Also Have Depression?

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Does that Cat Bite Mean You Also Have Depression?

Why do people who have cats also seem to be more likely to have depression? Is it because cats are more likely to bite a depressed person? Or is it because of some sort of toxic parasite?

Perhaps because depressed people like cats. Or cats and dogs. Or maybe, really, there’s no link there at all.

But don’t worry… We researchers will describe data and make suppositions that don’t take into account the most obvious of explanation of them all.

A Saliva Test to Detect Risk of Future Depression? Not Yet

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

A Saliva Test to Detect Risk of Future Depression? Not Yet

New research, published earlier this week in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, purported to identify the first biomarker for clinical depression.

What most media outlets failed to note was that this was not the first study to look at cortisol levels and their relationship to depression. In fact, it’s an area of research that has quite a few studies.

And what has the vast majority of the research in this area found? That a saliva biomarker test for depression is still a long ways away from becoming a reality.

Facebook Helps Ease Loneliness in Teens

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Facebook Helps Ease Loneliness in Teens

More than a few studies have examined the impact of social media on teenagers and children today. All too often, media turn such studies’ findings into alarm bells about how Facebook is making teenagers more lonely.

Which is bunk, because we largely know that lonely teens simply like to communicate more online.

A new study confirms this, demonstrating that teenagers who are lonely turn to social media sites like Facebook to feel less lonely and more connected with their friends. But the new research also throw us an interesting new wrinkle…

Fun with Data! Spinning the Beneficial Effects of Cognitive Training, Brain Games

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Fun with Data! Spinning the Beneficial Effects of Cognitive Training, Brain GamesWhen virtually all of your data from your study show negatives — e.g., people are getting worse at the task — what does a good researcher do?

Show your intervention helped people decline less than nothing at all. Then ensure the news release talks about “improvements” in these cognitive training tasks — echoing the language you used in your study.

Welcome to the wonderful world of cognitive training, where squishy “neuroscience” means drawing every last bit of statistical significance from your data… even when it has little meaning for real-world impact.

Millennials’ Problem? Depression & Few Skills in Conflict Negotiation

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Millennials' Problem? Depression & Few Skills in Conflict NegotiationI’ll start off by saying I don’t think it’s fair to any generation to claim you know what’s ailing them. I think a generation of people is so large and diverse, it’s hard to make generalizations that will apply to anything larger than a subgroup.

But that doesn’t stop both journalists and others from speculating about “what’s wrong with Millennials.”

For good reason — rates of depression are on the rise amongst older teens and young adults, hitting levels we’ve never seen before. Recent studies put the rate of depression as high as 44 percent among college students. Suicide remains a leading cause of death in this age group.

So is depression the problem? Helicopter parenting? Something else? Let’s find out.

Why Are We Drawn to Horror Films?

Saturday, January 4th, 2014

Why Are We Drawn to Horror Films?My relationship with horror films is one massive contradiction. On the one hand, I can’t peel my eyes away from the screen. On the other hand, I know that I’m surely going to be spooked in the aftermath (the more paranormal content, the creepier it is). And yet, I’m drawn to frightening movies anyway, in dark rooms and late at night. (Go big or go home, right?)

“Lauren, why do you do that to yourself?” family members ask, after it’s apparent that my vivid, disturbing dreams are probably a byproduct of the storylines I watched before sleep: John Cusack spends the night in a haunted hotel room and loses his mind. He escapes the room, physically, but does he ever really leave? The spirit of a murder victim lingers around the Yankee Peddler Inn — she’s seeking vengeance. Religion turns dark and exorcisms occur. Ouija boards just encompass freakiness.

Why are we so drawn to things that scare us?

Can a Single Study Have Such Influence Over ADHD Treatment?

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

magnifying glass research bigstImagine that in a world where thousands of new studies are published every year, and hundreds of studies are conducted on any one condition, that one gleaming, gold-standard study has the ability to completely determine the course of treatment for one condition. For decades.

If you find that hypothetical situation difficult to swallow, you’re not alone. Experts and specialists of a condition such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) rarely rely on a single study’s results to help guide their treatment decisions. And even when they do, it’s nearly always done within the context of a specific patient’s individualized needs.

So can a single study have such influence over the choice of treatments in ADHD? Let’s find out.

Improved Mental Health Treatment Won’t Impact Mass Shootings or School Killings

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Improved Mental Health Treatment Won't Impact Mass Shootings or School KillingsSome well-meaning folks believe that all we need is “better mental health treatment,” and suddenly we will no longer see school shootings or mass murders. While better access to mental health treatment will help society in the long-run for numerous reasons, it will make little difference for these rare mass shooting events.

Contrary to popular belief (and media hype), mass shootings are not on the rise. And on the face of it, it is fairly ridiculous to focus so much “preventative attention” on something that accounts for less than one percent of murders in the U.S. in any given year.

We’re driven to do so for emotional reasons, not logical ones. But even if you employ emotion as the rationale for improving society’s access to treatment for mental illness, will that matter one whit?

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