Tag: psychology

Johns Hopkins Helps Pick Astronauts for Trip to Mars

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Astronauts need to be smart, calm, determined problem-solvers. (It helps if they look like Matt Damon.)

Prenatal Stress Linked to Anorexia Later, Johns Hopkins Research Shows

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Photo by John Glittenberg, via Flickr
Photo by John Glittenberg, via Flickr

When Johns Hopkins researchers exposed pregnant rats to stress, they found some interesting results: Those rats’ babies were more prone to anorexia-like behavior. The correlation was particularly true when the pregnant rats exhibited passive responses to stress.

Toward Graphic Maturity

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image via fastcodesigns.com
image via fastcodesign.com

Essayist Lindsay Fleming ponders the character hidden inside each person’s handwriting.

I’m filling out the permission form for an after-school activity and call Addie over to sign her name. She’s 11 and several forms in the past year have required her signature. She watches me sign in the space for parent/guardian. I hand her the pen. She says, “But I don’t have a signature.”

To Be or Not to Be Gay: IS That a Question?

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coupleBaltimore writer Danielle Ariano asks herself and her readers: Is being gay possibly a choice? (And if so, should that matter?)

I’m gay.

A lesbian, to be specific.

Poor me. Doomed to a life of being different by something hardwired in my system, something pressed into my DNA, something I have no control over.

Putting Kids’ Sports in Perspective

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With fall sports seasons winding down and winter one ramping up, it’s a good time for a little perspective on kids’ sports.

That’s what sports psychologist Richard D. Ginsburg, PhD. aimed to impart in a recent lecture to a group of parents in the auditorium of one of Baltimore’s elite schools and, not incidentally, athletic powerhouses. He began with this loaded question: “Why do kids play sports?” The answers—health, friendship, fitness—sounded reasonable. The phrases “college scholarships” and “popularity” were not uttered. But Ginsburg, a former competitive athlete and parent of two young kids, knows better.

This Week in Research: Absent Students and Mixed-Up Emotions

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Recent research from Johns Hopkins shows that empty desks hurt all students — not just the absent ones.

In this series, we look at the newest findings coming out of our area’s top research universities. We’ve got some great minds in Baltimore — let’s learn what they’re learning!

It’s not shocking that chronically absent students are likely to fall behind their peers; what’s more surprising is that their absenteeism can hurt their classmates with perfect attendance records as well, according to new research out of the Johns Hopkins School of Education.

This Week in Research: Number Sense; Jitterbugging Through Space

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One of my favorite forms of procrastination is participating in online experiments. It’s really quite noble, if you think about it — it’s for Science, after all. And in the name of Science (and procrastination), I’ve clicked on boxes, tried to sort colors, typed words as quickly as possible, and done all sorts of other tasks. But this is the first time I’ve actually seen the results of one of these experiments published — and I have to say, I feel a little proud.

This Week in Research: Love, Scientifically; Tiny Flying Robots

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“Love is not a psychiatric disorder, but people that are in love are kind of crazy,” says Dr. Sandra Langeslag, an expert in biological psychology at the University of Maryland. And while the creative among us rhapsodize about love in poems and paintings, more rational types, like Langeslag, prefer to look at love through MRIs and EEGs. “I want to understand how the brain works when humans are attracted to one another,” Langeslag says, presumably beyond vague formulations like “Oh, you just know.” Langeslag’s research tries to bridge the gap between research on emotion (which depends on present circumstances) and cognition (which depends on thought and experience). Langeslag and her colleague, Luiz Pessoa, don’t believe that the two brain processes are as separate as they’re often portrayed. Langeslag’s research has shown that the brains of people in love show a specific pattern of what she calls “motivated attention” when shown images of their beloved. In other words, normal human propensity for distraction (a TV show in the background? an attractive stranger walking by?) is minimized when a person is gazing at the one they love. Isn’t that sweet?

If you want to know what the U.S. Air Force is up to these days, forget about watching Top Gun. Instead, consider the butterfly. No, not because they’re pretty, but because they’re able to fly through complex environments despite obstacles, wind, and narrow spaces. To that end, the Air Force is funding research at Johns Hopkins to help develop insect-sized robots for reconnaissance, search-and-rescue, and environmental monitoring missions — all without risking human life. To help develop the robots’ maneuverability, Johns Hopkins undergrad (!) Tiras Lin is taking high-speed video of butterflies and other flying insects. Designing successful, agile micro aerial vehicles (MAVs) requires an intimate understanding of the mass distribution of insects’ flapping wings, and how their bodies shift and distort as a response to the requirements of flight. So far, Lin and his fellow researchers have collected approximately 6,000 images — and used 600 frames to capture as little as one-fifth of one second of flight. “Butterflies flap their wings about 25 times per second,” Lin points out. “That’s why we had to take so many pictures.”

The Dark Side of Self-Esteem

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After years of doling out gold star stickers and supportive smiles, teachers in some school districts — including Montgomery County are learning a hard lesson:  that building students’ self esteem may make them into worse learners.

According to several studies, the foundation of many schools’ approach to self-esteem building (giving praise without worrying too much about actual outcomes) doesn’t help students learn.  Instead of offering empty praise, teachers should be rewarding students for real-world skills that will help them throughout their lives:  persistence, risk-taking, resilience.

Even praising students for being smart can backfire.  Studies have shown that students who are rewarded for their braininess become less likely to seek out challenges, presumably because they don’t want to erode their reputations as brainiacs. This can result in bright kids who tend to coast through assignments that are too easy for them, and/or kids who become frustrated when success isn’t immediate. Smart students become, in effect, “praise junkies.”

Montgomery County schools are among many nationwide that are incorporating new neuroscience findings into their education philosophies. What kind of positive feedback do you think is helpful for teachers (and parents!) to dole out?

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