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Brain and Behavior

Our Expectation Affects Food Likes and Dislikes

How we taste can be dramatically affected by suggestions and expectations.

Does pouring plain old tap water into fancy bottles make it taste better?  Yes.  At least in it did in a Penn & Teller episode on bottled water (please watch this video- very entertaining).  Penn & Teller went inside a southern California restaurant that featured a water sommelier that dispensed extravagant water menus to the patrons. The patrons had no idea that all of the fancy bottles of water were filled with the same water from a water hose in the back of the restaurant. Patrons were willing to pay $7.00 a bottle for L’eau Du Robinet (French for faucet water), Agua de Culo (Spanish for ass water), and Amazone (filtered through the Brazilian rainforest’s natural filtration system).

How do cues prior to ingestion predict flavor perception?

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Best of Our Blogs: July 26, 2011

I call one of my relatives a "bad news bear." Although he has good intentions, his spewing out the world's greatest tragedies every few minutes does not help me. In fact, all that worrying and anxiety could hurt. After calling him out on it, he said his main intention was concern. I get that.

I think parents today are like him. They just want to protect their children from the onslaught of offenders who are posted up all over the news 24/7.

If you love someone, however, how do you best protect them?

I think there is a balance between caring and being overprotective. And everyone deals with this in their own way. Some loved ones may minimize your pain because they hurt seeing you upset. That's why they say things like, "I'm sure you'll feel better soon" or "Try to think more positively." In a way, I think they are telling themselves that to lessen their own pain. I also think parents who are extra protective with their kids are only doing what they think is best.

Keep that in mind as you read our top 5 posts this week.

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Need Mental Health Treatment in 2 Weeks? Fat Chance

So let's say you needed mental health treatment right away. Let's say it's an emergency -- so much so that you sought out help at the local emergency department, and the doctors there said that you absolutely needed to get into treatment immediately -- within a week or two.

Now, let's assume you've got good private insurance. You know, something like Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts Preferred Provider Organization. This is one of the best insurance policies you can buy in Massachusetts.

What sort of chance would you have in getting to see a mental health professional within two weeks? 90%? 80%? 70%?

How about just over 6%? Welcome to the American healthcare system.

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British Psychological Society on DSM-5

Some of you may be following the development of the forthcoming fifth revision to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the major book used for psychiatric diagnosis. There has been a lot of criticism due to the secrecy of the process this time around, but the British Psychological Society (BPS), the major mental health organization in the UK, is taking an even more interesting and refreshing angle: criticizing the entire current framework of diagnosis.

The DSM takes a medical approach to...
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Should You Share Your Therapist With a Friend?

I have a friend who lives by this cardinal rule: She will never ever work with a friend.

So when jobs surface in her company, or if she hears of an opening in her field, she only shares the information with non-friends. It’s just too messy, she explained to me the other day.

Having experienced a situation not too long ago that became just that -- messy -- I can understand her logic and applaud her for sticking by that rule. I am now much more careful about sharing work opportunities with close friends... in order to protect myself.

Should the same rule apply to therapy?

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Change in Relationships: What to Do When Your Partner Changes

Your once sort of neat partner becomes a sloppy mess. Or they start spending more time on the golf course. Or worse, when you first met they wanted to have children, but now say they’re not interested.

What do you do when your partner changes in small or big ways?

Here, Terri Orbuch, Ph.D, clinical psychologist and author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great, offers her insight on change in relationships.

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Mental Illness is Not Simply a Brain Disease

Last month, Andrew Brown writing for the UK's Guardian, noted when Professor David Nutt kept referring to depression as a "brain disease" on a popular UK television program.

We commend Andrew Brown for his calling out Professor Nutt in trying to dumb down the portrayal of mental disorders to simply "brain diseases." Mental disorders remain complex disorders that involve all aspect of a person's functioning and life -- their brain and biology, their psychological makeup and personality, and their social interactions and relationships with others. The cause isn't just one of these things in the vast majority of people who have a mental illness -- the cause is all of these things, in differing proportions.

I've written about this in the past and in fact, I tag it as one of the top 10 myths of mental illness -- because it still is. Even well-meaning family physicians and psychiatrists still refer to the false chemical imbalance theory as though it were fact. A theory, by the way, that has never enjoyed strong research support.

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Integrative Behavioral Couple Therapy: Where Acceptance is Key

"There are two sides to every story." This timeless saying couldn’t be truer when it comes to conflict in a relationship.

In fact, it’s how couples therapists Andrew Christensen, Ph.D, and the late Neil Jacobson, Ph.D, start off their 2002 book Reconcilable Differences. Well, actually, they share a third side: their objective take on a couple, which usually includes some truth from both stories.

In the late 1990s, Christensen and Jacobson developed a type of couples therapy called integrative behavioral couple therapy (IBCT), which combines techniques from behavioral couples therapy with new strategies to cultivate acceptance.

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Brain and Behavior

The Critical Thinking Coach: Interview with Stephen Haggerty

Stephen Haggerty is a 2011 recipient of Eastern Kentucky University’s Critical Thinking Teacher of the year award.  The award is given to recognize "outstanding faculty members who have had an effect on developing their students' critical/creative thinking skills." (Read more about the award at Think EKU.)

In this two-part interview I discuss critical thinking with Stephen Haggerty.

What is the primary goal of critical thinking?

If I am a critical thinker, I am thinking things through before making choices.  In other words, a fundamental goal of critical thinking is to be able to consider multiple perspectives before deciding to act upon information, a person’s request, or even something like buying car or a house.

A critical thinker in school will be more successful.  A critical thinker in a job will be more successful.  A critical thinker in a relationship will be more successful and have greater satisfaction.  If I engage myself in reflective, purposeful thinking, I am going to make more informed choices about life.  That to me is the goal of critical and creative thinking.  It’s not just something we do in higher education…it’s something we should all engage in everyday in life.

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Sallie Mae, Markel and Dewar Discriminate Against People with Mental Illness

Sometimes you just have to shake your head -- the more things change, the more they stay the same.

It can really be depressing to see how, 3 years after the federal mental health parity act was passed, the company known primarily for underwriting students loans -- Sallie Mae -- is discriminating against people with a mental illness.

It's doing so through one of its myriad of products called tuition refund insurance, something that allows you to reclaim up to 100 percent of your tuition if an illness strikes you while you're in school. But not just any illness -- it has to be a physical illness. If a mental illness strikes you, you will only get 75 percent of your tuition returned.

There's a silver lining on this cloud... suggesting change may be forthcoming. So here's a blog entry to help push that change through.

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7 Tips for Deciding How Best to Spend Your Time, Energy and Money

We all have to make decisions about how to spend our time, energy, and money. Because of my happiness project, I now explicitly ask myself, “Will this decision make me happier?”

I’m determined to get the most happiness bang for the buck.

Here are some questions I consider:

1. Is this decision likely to strengthen my relationships with other people?

Strong relationships with other people are a key — the key — to happiness, so decisions that help me build or strengthen ties are likely to boost my happiness. Yes, it’s a hassle and an expense to go to my college reunion, but it’s likely to have a big happiness pay-off.

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Best of Our Blogs: July 22, 2011

Yesterday, I was stuck in traffic when I had to consciously take a deep breath and go to my happy place so I wouldn't freak out at the scene in front of me. There were three or four cars spread out in an accident across four lanes. A tow truck was on the right and its driver was cautiously, but assertively attempting to stop cars from hitting him as he walked valiantly across the freeway to help a car get towed.

I was amazed by two things. First, that merely putting up his hand "sort of" stopped traffic. The second is that it didn't stop cars completely. As I sat there, I saw cars wiggle next to me on my right almost hitting the truck driver in the process. I saw him make it to the shoulder lane, briskly carrying a crying little boy who had been in the car and helping his mother get over to the other side. All the while, cars kept going whizzing past. I couldn't believe it.

Maybe he should have waited for a police officer. But still. All I kept thinking about was, "How important is it for these racing motorcycles and impatient cars to get to where they wanted to go?" Was it important enough to potentially hurt innocent people? Was it worth scaring the daylights out of a little kid, his family and all of us observing what was happening?

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