Dietary Decision Training

Do you struggle to lose weight? BYU Psychology professor Michael Larson is looking for overweight and obese individuals to participate in a study about dietary decisions. Compensation is $100.

Qualifications:

• Must be between the ages of 18 and 45
• Must be willing to complete a 10-minute practice four times per week for one month
• Must have no psychiatric or neurologic history

Participants will complete an intervention that may aid in managing dominant responses to eat high-calorie foods, have their brain activity measured and complete some diet recalls. If you’re interested in participating, email byuneuro@gmail.com.

The Loneliness Epidemic

In our hyper-connected world with smart phones, tweets, texts, posts and photos, it’s surprising that people often feel more lonely than ever.

Using research from BYU psychology and neuroscience professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad, the TODAY Show is launching a #TogetherToday campaign to help combat social isolation and forge meaningful, real-life connections.

Some researchers say that America is in the grips of a loneliness epidemic. The effects go beyond emotional distress and can lead to serious health problems.

“Feeling lonely can heighten the sense of perception of environment as threatening. These physiological or biological responses that are preparing us for a threat are much like a stress response and this can put us at increased risk for a variety of physical illnesses,” says Holt-Lunstad.

She has studied the physical risks of loneliness and says social disconnection can be deadlier than smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

See the full story at https://www.today.com/offsite/loneliness-can-be-hazardous-to-your-health-experts-warn-1217031235888.

 

FHSS Valedictorians: Setting the Curve

BYU is famous for many things: Cosmo the Cougar, being ranked the number 1 “Stone Cold Sober” school 20 years running, and our awesome chocolate milk. Our amazing graduates however, trump all. The graduating class this year is one of the school’s biggest, which the majority of the females being returned missionaries.  From undergraduate research in Thailand to managing a neuroscience lab, FHSS boasts some of the most accomplished graduates. Check out our incredible valedictorians:

Boone Robins Christianson, of Provo, had no idea what anthropology was when he declared it as a major his freshman year. He wants to thank his parents Marlin and LaDonn for supporting him even though they were equally confused about what he could do with the degree. Throughout his time at BYU, Boone has spent the majority of his studies researching African agricultural development, including conducting research in Malawi and Namibia. In addition, he speaks Otjiherero, a rare language spoken by small groups of people from those countries. Despite his successes in anthropology, Boone has decided to pursue a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, and will begin his pursuit of this degree at Auburn University in Alabama this upcoming fall. Boone has enjoyed being involved in intermural sports, the Diction Club, and being an active participant in his LDS campus wards. He loves spending long hours playing Boggle and eating cereal.

boone baby

John Frederick Bonney, an economics major, is the son of Philip and Georgia Bonney. He grew up in the US, Senegal, and Italy, and served a mission in the Netherlands. John has thoroughly enjoyed working with faculty at BYU, performing research in areas including behavioral, educational, and familial economics and teaching other students about applied econometric research. He is grateful to the economics faculty for their stellar instruction and would specifically like to thank Drs. Lars Lefgren, Joe Price, and James Cardon for allowing him to enhance his learning through research and teaching assistantships. While attending BYU, John has also completed four internships during which he designed market research and forecasted models currently in use by multiple Fortune 500 companies. Within the community, John has enjoyed serving through educational organizations like Alpha and Project Read. John is happily married to Amanda Bonney, who is graduating with a Master of Accountancy. After graduating, John will continue his passion for economic research as a pre-doctoral fellow at the University of Chicago.

JohnBonney_headshot

Grayson Morgan, a geography major with a geospatial science and technology emphasis, is the second child born to Daniel and Michelle Morgan and grew up in Beaufort, South Carolina. Geography has surrounded him his whole life, but it wasn’t until his freshman year that he realized that it was exactly what he wanted to do. During his short time at BYU, Grayson has come to thoroughly enjoy his encounters with the various Geography Department Professors, secretaries, TAs, and fellow students. Certainly, much of his learning could not have taken place without their generous help and overwhelming kindness. His family means the world to him and he would like to thank his wife, parents, siblings, and extended family for their support. Grayson loves serving others, BYU sports, playing with his two-month-old daughter, and learning new things. He is excited to continue learning this fall as he begins a master’s degree and eventual PhD program in Global Information Systems/Remote Sensing at the University of South Carolina.

Morgan

Kaytlin Fay Anne Nalder, a history teaching major, grew up in Alberta, Canada. She is the sixth of seven children born to Byron and Deanne Nalder. Her love for history began in high school, but it wasn’t until she came to BYU that she considered majoring in it. While at BYU, Kaytlin was able to work as both a teaching and research assistant for Dr. Underwood, a job which was one of the highlights of her undergraduate experience. She was also the recipient of two history paper awards including the De Lamar and Mary Jensen Student Paper Award in European History and the Carol Cornwall Madsen Student Paper Award in Women’s History. Kaytlin enjoys skiing, reading, cooking, crocheting, and spending time with family and friends. She would like to thank all of the wonderful mentors and professors she was privileged to work with during her time at BYU, as well as her family and friends for their support and encouragement.

Nalder Picture

Marissa Skinner, a family life major with an emphasis in Human Development, is the daughter of Terry and Lottie Anderson. Although she grew up in Salt Lake City, she is a Cougar fan through and through. She discovered her passion for human development simply by taking a general class and has been hooked ever since. During her time at BYU, she served as a council member for Y-Serve, served a mission in the Philippines, and worked closely with many professors to conduct research projects regarding the topics of gender-socialization and moral development. Marissa also conducted two research projects that she presented at conferences on campus. She is so excited to implement what she has learned in her program and hopes she can make a difference because of it. She would like to thank her husband, family, and faculty members for pushing her out of her comfort zone and helping her reach her goals.

Marissa Skinner

Reed Lynn Rasband, a political science major, is the son of Kevin Rasband and Heather Watts and is the oldest of eight children. He grew up raising sheep in Brigham City, Utah and served a mission in Rancagua, Chile. As an undergraduate, he was able to carry out research for his Honors thesis in Thailand, additional research in the United Kingdom, and an internship with a refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border. He worked for four years as a teaching and research assistant in the Political Science department. He has also served as the President of the BYU Political Affairs Society, as Editor-in-Chief for the undergraduate journal Sigma, and as a volunteer with two organizations serving the Utah County Latino community. This fall, he will begin work on a Ph.D. in political science, focusing on ethnic and migration politics in the hopes of finding ways to improve intergroup relations around the globe. He is incredibly grateful for the continuing support his family provides him, as well as for the excellent mentorship he has received from BYU faculty.

ReedR2 (2)

Charlotte Esplin, a psychology major with a clinical emphasis, grew up in Basildon, Essex, UK. After serving a mission in the Utah St. George Temple Visitors’ Center, Charlotte came to BYU. The first to attend a university in her family, Charlotte has embraced academics and all that a university life has had to offer.  While at BYU, Charlotte has worked as a teaching assistant for multiple psychology classes, and has performed quantitative research into how personality variables affect marital outcomes with Dr. Scott Braithwaite. This research has resulted in various articles,

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FHSS student wins BYU’s 3MT Competition!

In 2008, Queensland University started hosting a competition titled 3MT (Three Minute Thesis). “An 80,000-word PhD thesis would take nine hours to present. Their time limit…three minutes,” reads the inaugural university’s website for the event.  The program has since spread to several universities worldwide and last year was BYU’s inaugural event for graduate students.

This year, a student from FHSS won BYU’s campus-wide competition!

Psychology PhD student Elizabeth Passey took 1st place for her research on why teenagers binge drink and was awarded $5,000. Passey also took 1st place in the college-level competition.

why do teenagers binge drink

Jessica Simpson, an Anthropology Master’s student, took second place at the college level. She studied how wear patterns can determine the function of ceramic vessels.

ceramic vessel function

Social Work student Candi Child-Illum took third place at the college level with her research on human trafficking.

human traffikingCongratulations to Candi, Jessica, and Elizabeth! Visit BYU’s Three Minute Thesis website for more information on the competition.

Psychological effects of critical illness: Hickman Lecture 2018

The effects of a critical illness can impact your life and the lives of your loved ones years after the illness itself ends.

1109-15 Hopkins, Ramona 05Ramona Hopkins, director of the BYU Neuroscience Center, will address this relevant and personal topic at the 25th Annual Martin B. Hickman Outstanding Scholar Lecture. Her lecture, titled “Effects of Critical Illness on Patients and Families,” will expound on Post-Intensive Care Syndrome and how critical illness impacts both patients and family caregivers’ cognitive and psychological functions.

The lecture will be held on Thursday, March 8 at 7 p.m. in room 250 in the KMBL (SWKT). Light refreshments will be served after the event.

Dr. Ramona Hopkins has led and served the college in neuroscience and psychology for almost 20 years. She has multiple degrees in both nursing and psychology and uses her knowledge and leadership to direct the Neuroscience Center and to teach psychology and neuroscience. She is the recipient of a number of awards from BYU including the Young Scholar Award in 2004, the Karl G. Maeser Research and Creative Arts Award in 2010, the 2011 Jack Bailey Teaching and Learning Faculty Fellowship and the 2013 Sponsored Research Recognition Award.

The lecture is in honor of Martin Berkeley Hickman, a BYU political science professor who served as the dean of the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences from 1970-1986. As the dean, Hickman was instrumental in helping the college become what it is today by unifying the College of Social Sciences with parts of the College of Family Living. He also helped make possible the Women’s Research Institute, the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies and the Family Studies Center. As for teaching, Hickman is recognized as the father of BYU’s American Heritage program as he organized, presided over, and helped instruct the course. Hickman was renown for his loyalty and dedication to his family, the Church, the college and BYU.

The Martin B. Hickman Scholar Award is given annually to recognize a notable college faculty who follows Hickman’s example of service and dedication.

 

What can You do to Strengthen Your Relationship With Your Roommate?

While each person’s college experience is unique, many share common elements, such as: navigating difficult classes, dating, and living with roommates.  The research of various FHSS professors speaks not only to the importance of building and maintain positive relationships with friends and roommates, but also provides ideas for how to do so.

Why are relationships important?

Psychology professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad studies relationships and the effects they have on health. In a 2015 study, she found that loneliness is a precursor for early death. “The risk associated with social isolation and loneliness is comparable with well-established risk factors for mortality, including those identified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (physical activity, obesity, substance abuse, responsible sexual behavior, mental health, injury and violence, environmental quality, immunization, and access to health care,)” she and her co-authors said. Loneliness can lead to death just as much as obesity and substance abuse can.

In an interview with Scientific American, the professor spoke on the importance of friendship: “[Friends] provide a sense of meaning or purpose in our lives.”

How can we improve relationships?

1. Understand that they may be struggling

In a recent Connections article, School of Family Life professors Laura Padilla-Walker, Jason Carroll, Brian Willoughby, and Larry Nelson identified the four top concerns of “emerging adults” (people between the 18 and 24) as:

  • Identity: still exploring
  • Parental involvement: transitioning to independence
  • Sexual behavior/Relationships: in light of religious beliefs and newfound independence
  • Religion/Morality: and how it relates to their worldviews

“Emerging adulthood is a unique time of life,” the researchers said, “complete with its own set of challenges and struggles, and it is important for parents, teachers, employers, and others to learn about these issues.” Understanding that your roommate may be experiencing these challenges can help you emphathize.

2. Talk with them

The Relate Institute offers the following ways to have a meaningful conversation:

  • Don’t multitask: focus on your roommate when you’re talking to him or her
  • Don’t pontificate: enter every conversation with the thought that you have something you can learn from it
  • Ask open-ended questions
  • If you don’t know, say that you don’t
  • Don’t equate their experience with yours

Following these tips will allow you to meaningfully communicate with your roommate, which will lead to a better relationship.

3. Do something fun together

rae and madiCheck out our articles on what to do during Thanksgiving break and Summer (these still apply anytime of year) for fun ideas of what to do together.

 

 

 

 

What More Can be Done for College Students With Autism?

 

Being a college student with autism can be quite challenging, research shows. In addition to the typical struggles that come with adjusting to the more rigorous but less structured demands of university classes, and the life changes of moving away from home and making new friends, young adults on the autism spectrum (ASD) tend to struggle with deficits in sensory processing, social skills, and executive functioning. While they can take advantage of therapeutic resources and government-mandated accommodations to address these concerns, there is more that can be done, according to BYU professors Mikle South and Jonathan Cox.

Mikle South
Photo by: Cheryl C. Fowers/BYU
Copyright BYU PHOTO 2007
All Rights Reserved

South, who is an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience, and Cox, an associate clinical professor, analyzed two-decades’ worth of patient records from the university’s Counseling and Psychological Services Center to discover the effectiveness of therapy for autistic students as opposed to their neuro-typical peers. They found that the students with autism generally took twice as long and required significantly more therapy sessions to achieve degrees of improvement comparable to their non-autistic peer. In the United States in general, the graduation rate of college students with autism is 18 percent lower than that of the general population.

In an October 2017 Spectrum article, South and Cox suggest that, while BYU and other universities offer therapy groups and accommodations to bring more of them closer to graduation and farther from their difficulties, some universities have implemented other effective non-therapeutic measures, and there are more that can be taken that are more suited to the specific needs of people on the ASD spectrum.

What Can Be Done

“In large institutions,” say South and Cox, “the [social, mental, and organizational needs of people with autism] can easily be missed by everyone, including the parents of these students.” To address those needs, they suggest that universities offer programs like one provided at Utah Valley University. Passages includes weekly skill-building meetings, recreational and social activities like hikes and movie nights, and regular workshops for families. In addition, they say that universities can consider training aides in executive functioning coaching.

Too, they offer, “It may be possible to create safe spaces— areas with minimal sensory stimulation—for taking exams and other activities. And our data suggest that extending treatment limits for people with autism can lead to substantial improvements in well-being while decreasing costs associated with student failure.”

“Generating the institutional willpower to improve support for students on the spectrum requires advocacy, creativity and flexibility,” they continue. “Administrators and others should take the time to learn about autism and push for change. Autism is not rare; every college has many students with autism who can succeed with a little help.”

What We Know

South and Cox’s suggestions add to the large body of expertise produced by research group Autism Connect, whose purpose is to help everyone see autism as “a collection of disorders where each individual has unique symptoms.” These professors and researchers seek to improve the lives of individuals and families with autism spectrum disorders through research so that new understanding and symptom-specific treatments can be developed. Doctor South focuses his research on the relationship between anxiety and ASD. Using MRI and EEG brain imaging, South and his peers have found that people with ASD may have difficulties understanding their emotions and the safety of situations. These individuals may assume that everything is threatening and adopt anxiety as a default emotion. This anxiety may be a connection between ASD and aggression.

This research can help individuals and families get the help and assistance they need sooner rather than later, helping to decrease distress and isolation among families and individuals who have ASD.

 

 

Toward Finding New Perspectives for Psychologists by Acknowledging World Views

“For fish to understand the water of their environment, it’s not enough to describe different types of water,” says BYU psychology professor Brent D. Slife and his collegues in their new book The Hidden Worldviews of Psychology’s Theory, Research, and Practice. “The fish will not properly appreciate the environment they literally breathe through their gills until they have experienced a truly stark contrast, such as being jerked from the water altogether” (27). They argue that, like fish, people, and psychologists in particular, cannot appreciate the environments they are a part of unless they experience stark contrasts.  They would say that in general, neither individuals nor psychologists fully understand and recognize their unique worldviews and how they shape them as individuals and participants in the field of psychology.

World views are defined by psychologist Mark Koltko-Rivera as “a set of beliefs that includes statements and assumptions regarding what exists and what does not…, what objectives or experiences are good or bad, and what objectives, behaviors, and relationships are desirable or undesirable…. World views include assumptions that may be unproven, and even be unprovable, but these assumptions are subordinate in that they provide the epistemic and ontological foundations for other beliefs within a belief system” (2). World views create the “foundation” for everything we accept and believe.

It is monumentally important, say Slife et al, that people not simply know what a worldview is but that they sensitize themselves to all majority and minority world views so as to enrich their psychological state and the field of psychology as a whole. In most psychological settings today, psychologists are asked to separate their personal biases, or worldviews, from the study being done or the client being assessed, but this simply cannot be done. “It is not possible for [psychologists] to empty their brains of theories and worldview influences,” writes Slife’s colleague Kari A. O’Grady. “Their choice[s] of topic and methodology are inevitably informed by theory and reflect biases: their grandmother’s philosophies, internet blogs, professors’ positions, and childhood experiences, to name just a few” (45). Worldviews are unarguably attached to all aspects of psychology in the following areas:

The General Discipline of Psychology

“Psychology is the product of a particular culture, which has been referred to as primarily WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic)” (58). The secularized history of psychology has likewise favored naturalistic over theistic approaches. “Many aspects of naturalism are so endemic to psychology’s methods that they are not understood or even recognized to exist as a [world influence]” (48). This influence has set a concrete need for generalization, separation of subjective and objective, and to detect causality in psychology, but these “needs” are not needed in every world view, just the one grandfathered in by psychology. This limits the field of psychology to a singular set of perspectives and demands rather than specific needs that are unique to different peoples and facets of the field.

Methodology and Psychotherapy

A large majority of psychotherapy methodology is based off of the Liberal Individualism and Strong Relationism worldviews. Therapists not imposing their own beliefs on their clients, the use of self-empowerment in therapy, prioritizing the individual, and seeing a client outside of their personal environment, in a therapy room for example, are all based on Individualism beliefs. Family and group therapy aimed at improving relationships is based on Relationism. These methods and ideologies are often taught and exercised, but never questioned, closing the door on minority worldviews and perspectives and possible approaches to therapy that are not included in these two majority worldviews.

Research

Psychologists assume that objectivity in all cases is the best option, but as we’ve stated before, implying that a scientist, psychologist, or client has no worldviews is illogical. When an author of a cross-cultural study, for instance, “said that worldviews of other cultures ‘count,’ they neglected to count in their own worldviews” (59). When we study a different people or culture “we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are” (63).

Education and Training

“The norms of [undergraduate and graduate training] are tacitly perceived and internalized, and by such means, contemporary graduate education forms its students into a certain kind of ethical participant, one who has taken on the normative beliefs, values, attitudes, and practices of one’s discipline…so that they too can become a reliable informant and a trusted member of the intellectual majority” (18-19).

The fact that the field of psychology itself is defined by worldviews should be enough to show that it is impossible for people—including psychologists—to live their lives in a worldview-neutral way. The fish cannot stay in its own little world and the field of psychology cannot continue in its blind state ignoring all forms of opposing worldviews. It may be human to guard ourselves against new or different views, but it is inhumane to stop others’ stories and opinions from being shared.

In an attempt to keep psychology “pure,”  a “reflexivity problem” has formed, says Slife. Psychologists might diagnose patients having minority worldviews with blindness and biases, but fails to see their own blindnesses. Minority worldviews exist, however, and are here and waiting to be heard. When psychologists hear and listen to diverse worldviews, psychology will have more sophisticated research, increased sensitivity in treatment, increased empathy towards clients, a decrease in the transfer of bias, increased policy transparency, more diverse ideas and perspectives on research and analysis, and increased efficacy in social programs (6-7).

Worldview awareness and coexistence is where psychology needs to be heading. “It’s where psychologists are allowed to be themselves, to come out of their respective worldview closets, and to openly explore the connections between their psychologies and their deepest convictions” (76). “It’s only when different worldview communities are treated in accord with the ethical and democratic values expressed [in this book] that these conditions will be possible. And all boats will rise. The recognizing and nurturing of all worldviews will create a space where all people of all worldviews can contribute to the field to make psychology more inclusive, integrated, and helpful.

 

How can you better recognize and accept other’s worldviews?

 

 

 

 

 

Why BYU Students Should Read Fiction and Nonfiction… For Fun

“Books are a uniquely portable magic,” Stephen King said. But the problem is that most people don’t read for fun, and that means that they’re missing out on literary magic. A recent survey by the National Endowment for the Arts suggested that only 43 percent of adults read a work of literature in 2015. The survey excluded assigned reading to focus on people who read for fun, and the results revealed the lowest percentage of adult readers since the NEA began tracking reader data in 1982.

BYU students are no exception. Between their classes, homework, part-time jobs, and social lives, few students pick up books to read for pleasure. One article published by The Daily Universe suggested that students prefer reading during the summer, when they have much lighter loads. But what are the benefits of reading fiction, and why should you do it as often as possible? New psychological research suggests that readers are more empathetic than other people are, probably because reading trains the mind to put itself in other people’s shoes. Those findings have been replicated by many studies in the past few years.

FHSS has a reading list on its website, and we’re going to suggest two of our recent favorites to our readers. These are works of non-fiction written by our own professors, but they provide food for thought and fun.

  • A World Ablaze, by history professor Craig Harline. This book tells Martin Luther’s story, but it’s no history textbook. A World Ablaze reads like a work of fiction, and Harline’s storytelling will keep you flipping pages all the way to the end. Keep checking our blog for more information; we’ll publish a detailed post about the book next week.
  • Friends are fun, and psychology professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad wrote a chapter in a recent book about the psychology of friendship, about what it means to be a friend and how we can befriend those across the race, ethnicity, gender, and orientation spectrums. This chapter also addresses what happens when a friendship turns sour, the effect of friendship on our mental health.

One of the most valuable things college students can learn is how to find books that interest them. Luckily, the Harold B. Lee Library ranks among the best college libraries in the nation, so you can find thousands of titles right on campus. You could also check out Pioneer Book on Center Street or purchase books through Amazon. If you don’t know what kind of books you yourself might be interested in, you might want to ask your roommates or favorite professors what they’re currently reading. For book recommendations, search #bookreviews, #amreading, #booknerd, or #bookstagram on Instagram.

What’s your favorite recent read?

Let us know in the comments section!

Tackling Mental Health with a Psychologist and College Quarterback

What do you think of when you hear the words “mental health?” For many people, there’s a stigma attached to depression, anxiety, OCD, eating disorders, or any other form of mental illness, but these illnesses are real, and they are widespread. Luckily, more and more people are raising their voices to talk about their experiences with mental illness. You probably first heard of one such BYU student in September 2015 when he threw a Hail Mary to secure BYU’s victory over Nebraska, featured on ESPN. In an April 2017 Instagram post, “Miracle Mangum,” this year’s starting quarterback Tanner Mangum, spoke out about his struggles with depression and anxiety.

Now, a new CBS Sports video features the quarterback as he discusses more about his mental health. Dr. Michael Larson, a clinical neuropsychologist from FHSS‘s Psychology Department, appears in the video to elaborate on the science of mental illness. “Most mental illness tends to start between the ages of 18 and 24,” Dr. Larson says. It often manifests itself as young adults move away from home and live on their own for the first time.


Dr. Larson also addressed the myths that learning to “toughen up” or realizing “it’s just in your head” will cure mental illness. “The truth is that depression and anxiety have actual changes in the brain that are associated with these mental illnesses,” he explained.

Depression and anxiety may result from a combination of genetic, biological, environmental and social factors, according to the American Psychological Association. And mental illness may occur if there are problems with the function of a particular brain region or as neurons send messages via neurotransmitters, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

BYU’s Counseling and Psychological Services Office offers many resources and services to students with mental illnesses, and our Comprehensive Clinic provides counseling and therapy to members of the community dealing with mental illness. The office lets students make appointments with counselors, complete online courses on stress management, and enroll in student development classes, among other things.

Has mental illness affected you? How can friends and family members support individuals with mental illness?

Let us know in the comments, and don’t hesitate to share resources or tips.