By Dr. Elaine Ducharme

Each month, The Monitor on Psychology publishes a journal related to current psychological research. There is always a section entitled In Brief which gives short summaries of interesting studies. Here are a few of the issues presented in the May 2017 publication:

Supersize It: People are not very good at estimating portion increases as they say they are at spotting downsizing. Researchers reported in the Journal of Experimental Psychology General that on average, when a portion was doubled, people judged it was 72 percent larger than the original, a significant underestimate. However, a portion that was halved appeared to be 53 percent smaller, a fairly accurate judgement. The researchers hypothesized that this is because portions cannot be smaller than zero, so there is a natural “lower bound” for judgements, whereas there is no corresponding natural “upper bound.” In a follow-up experiment they found that providing upper bound-for example, telling people that a jar could hold up to 600 M&M’s-erased the difference in suppressing and downsizing accuracy.

Bottom line : we often eat too much and don’t realize it.

Lie Detection: It takes longer to come up with a lie than to tell the truth. This finding, as reported in Psychological Bulletin, suggests that reaction time might be able to be used to develop lie detection tests. We are talking milliseconds here.

Bottom line:  it might be very difficult to use this information to determine if your child is lying about eating those cookies!

Get Moving: Research has shown that physically active adults have fewer symptoms of depression than sedentary ones. Now, a study in Pediatrics suggests the same holds true for children. Kids who engaged in more moderate to vigorous physical activity at ages 6 and 8 were less likely to have symptoms of depression at age 10.

Bottom line: everyone is going to feel better if you get off the couch, put down the electronics and do something physically active.

Witnessing Violence: Among criminal offenders, those who witnessed domestic violence as children were more likely to show psychopathic traits, even if they were not victims of the violence themselves. This study was reported in Law and Human Behavior. These children scored significantly higher on measures of psychopathy, in particular, for pathological lying and manipulation.

Bottom line: even if your kids don’t seem to be the actual victims of domestic violence, they may be learning very negative behaviors. Kids tend to learn what they see, not what we tell them if they are incongruent facts.

It Gets Better: A study in JAMA Pediatrics found that states that legalized same sex marriage saw a drop in teen suicide rates over 15 years. There was no significant change in suicide-attempt rates in states that did not pass same sex marriage laws.

Bottom line: same-sex marriage laws can truly save lives.





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