If Pigeons Were Brilliant, Would They Flock?

UC Davis Study Finds People Flock, or Behave Similarly to Others, Despite Reasoning Abilities

By Karen Nikos-Rose

Crowd panics, market bubbles, and other unpredictable collective behaviors would not happen if people were smart about these things and just thought through their behavior before they acted. Right? That’s the perspective in economics, and even psychology and sociology.

Pigeons

“Let’s be smart about this, guys” (Via PBS.org)

But a UC Davis researcher looked at how people behave in simple reasoning games and found that people are usually driven to “flock,” or behave similarly to others in a given situation. Seth Frey, an assistant professor of communication at UC Davis, said this happens “even when people use the fancy reasoning processes that are supposed to make humans so special.”

Podcast: Intensive Training for Parents Referred to CPS Improves Child Physiology

Traumatic experiences, such as maltreatment as children, can influence how our mind and body react to stressful situations. UC Davis psychologist Paul Hastings and colleagues at the University of Washington have shown that intensive training for parents referred to Child Protective Services can improve physiological reactions to stress in their young children.

Listen: Three Minute Egghead: Parenting and Child Physiology (Soundcloud)

More information

Training for Parents Referred to CPS Improves Toddler’s Physiological Regulation (UC Davis News)

Listen to more episodes of Three Minute Egghead on Soundcloud or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

Markers of Cellular Aging Improve During Insight Meditation Retreat

By Anahita Hamidi

Telomeres are repetitive nucleotide sequences that act as protective “caps” at the end of DNA strands. As cells age, either as a function of time or as a result of stress and poor health, telomeres tend to shorten. As such, telomere length can be used as a crude biological marker of health and well-being.

Telomeres are caps at the end of a chromosome. They become shorter with aging. (Getty Images)

A recent study by researchers at the University of California Davis, Center for Mind and Brain, measured changes in telomere length, telomerase (the enzyme which replenishes telomeres), and telomere-regulating genes in a group of individuals who participated in a month-long Insight meditation retreat.

Pay Attention: $2.7 Million Grant to Map Brain’s Attention Network

By Becky Oskin

From moment to moment, the brain processes millions of pieces of information. When people need to focus on a critical task, special circuits in the brain’s attention network kick in to filter the information firehose.

A new project with UC Davis neuroscientists and bioengineers from the University of Florida will explore the brain circuits that allow us to focus our attention.

Anxiety and Children with Fragile X Syndrome

By Kathleen Holder

Anxiety is a common problem for children and adults with fragile X syndrome, magnifying their struggles living with an inherited intellectual disability. New UC Davis research could lead to new ways to identify and treat their anxiety at a young age—even in infancy.

The study led by developmental psychologists Jessica Burris and Susan Rivera found that infants and young children with fragile X syndrome, unlike typically developing children, tend to have their attention specifically captured by angry faces rather than happy ones. That sort of “attentional bias” toward angry faces is a pattern associated with anxiety.

Podcast: Visual Attention and Meaning

In this episode of the Three Minute Egghead podcast, I talk to John Henderson of the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain about a new paper from his lab that overturns current thinking about visual attention.

It’s usually thought that our eyes are drawn to objects that are salient or “stand out” from the background. But this “magpie theory” of attention is wrong, Henderson says. He and postdoc Taylor Hayes show instead that our eyes are drawn by parts of a scene that have “meaning.”

Listen here.

 

More information

Visual Attention Drawn to Meaning, not What Stands Out (news release)

Podcast: Monkey See, Monkey Learn, Monkey Do

South American capuchin monkeys are curious animals that readily learn new skills. UC Davis graduate student Brendan Barrett talks about studying learning in these monkeys in this episode of the Three Minute Egghead podcast.

https://soundcloud.com/andy-fell/monkey-see-monkey-learn

Capuchin monkeys can learn new skills by watching each other. (Brendan Barrett/UC Davis)

Read the original story here.

 

For Better Or Worse: Links Between Genetics And Stress

By Diane Nelson

Our genes can influence how we respond to stress. Science shows that some people are more genetically predisposed than others to develop depression and anxiety in response to stressful situations.

UC Davis psychologists Johnna Swartz (left) and Jay Belsky.

UC Davis psychologists Johnna Swartz (left) and Jay Belsky have found that genetic traits that make people vulnerable to stress-related mental health problems, are also those best equipped to respond to positive interventions.

What’s more, researchers say that chronic exposure to stressful conditions—such as poverty, family discord, and poor nutrition—can alter the way genes behave in children and adolescents, making them more susceptible to depression, anxiety, and other negative effects of stress.

Video Games a Viable Treatment for Depression

People play more often when they receive reminders, study finds

By Karen Nikos-Rose

Video games and “brain training” applications are increasingly touted as an effective treatment for depression. A new UC Davis study carries it a step further, though, finding that when the video game users were messaged reminders, they played the game more often and in some cases increased the time spent playing.

“Through the use of carefully designed persuasive message prompts … mental health video games can be perceived and used as a more viable and less attrition-ridden treatment option,” according to the study.

People’s Romantic Choices Share Characteristics, But for Different Reasons

By Karen Nikos-Rose

Ever wondered what your exes have in common, and how they differ from people you never dated?

The people one dates share many similarities – both physically and personality-wise — a new UC Davis study has found.

For observable qualities like attractiveness, similarity emerges because attractive people seduce other attractive people. But, researchers said, for qualities that vary greatly depending on where you live (like education or religion) similarity emerges because educated or religious people tend to meet each other, not because educated or religious people actively select each other.