What midlife crisis? New study shows happiness increases into midlife! #science

galambos

A new study published in Developmental Psychology suggests that the idea of midlife crisis may be a myth. The research shows that happiness from 20s-40s actually increases when you follow individuals over time in a longitudinal manner. Check out a news summary here. a video summary and interview here, and a fun clip from the Today Show here!! How does that compare and fit in with past research suggesting happiness declines at midlife?

Lead researcher and psychology professor Nancy Galambos says she found the opposite – that people in her study were happier in their early 40s than when they were in their late teens and early 20s.

“I think it’s because life is more difficult for younger people than for people in middle age,” Galambos explains.

She says some young adults are depressed, have trouble finding work and sorting out their lives.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty. But by middle age, a lot of people have worked that out and are quite satisfied through the earliest child-bearing years.”

Galambos says most studies looked at a groups of people of various ages. She says the U of A study surveyed the same people – 1,500 of them – over many years, and is more reliable.

Congrats and shoutout to lead researcher Dr. Nancy Galambos for the nice media attention – she also happens to be my Aunt!!! My own experience couldn’t agree more with this research – aside from being an underpaid research, my happiness definitely increased as I aged through my 20s.

Disney/Pixar film “Inside Out” nails it when it comes to the science behind emotions!

From NPR:

Science Of Sadness And Joy: ‘Inside Out’ Gets Childhood Emotions Right

JUNE 13, 2015

Joy (left, voiced by Amy Poehler) and Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith) catch a ride on the Train of Thought in Pixar’s Inside Out. The movie opens in theaters nationwide June 19.

Hollywood’s version of science often asks us to believe that dinosaurs can be cloned from ancient DNA (they can’t), or that the next ice age could develop in just a few days (it couldn’t).

But Pixar’s film Inside Out is an animated fantasy that remains remarkably true to what scientists have learned about the mind, emotion and memory.

The film is about an 11-year-old girl named Riley who moves from her happy home in Minnesota to the West Coast, where she has no friends and pizza is made with broccoli. Much of the film is spent inside Riley’s mind, which features a control center manned by five personified emotions: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust.

“I think they really nailed it,” says Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley who worked as a consultant to the filmmakers.

The movie does a really good job of portraying what it’s like to be 11, Keltner says. “It zeroes in on one of the most poignant times in an individual’s life, which is the transition to the preteen and early teen years, where kids — and, I think, in particular girls — start to really powerfully feel the loss of childhood,” he says.

As the filmmakers were working, they would fire off emails to Keltner and to Paul Ekman, a pioneer in the study of emotions. The process helped create a movie that’s true to the underlying science when it shows things like how emotions tend to color Riley’s perception of the world.

“When you are in a fearful state, everything is imbued with threat and uncertainty and peril,” Keltner says. And when Riley is sad, he says, even her happy memories take on a bluish hue.

The filmmakers get a lot of other scientific details right. Inside Riley’s head, you see memories get locked in during sleep, experiences transformed into abstractions, and guards protecting the subconscious.

There are a few departures from the scientific norm. Long-term memories are portrayed as immutable snow globes, though scientists know these memories actually tend to change over time. And Riley gets five basic emotions instead of the six often described in textbooks. (“Surprise,” apparently, didn’t make the cut.)

Also disgust is present in a pretty mild form — the reaction a child has to eating broccoli. The film plays down a more powerful version of disgust, “like if you suddenly eat a piece of food and it has a worm in it, or it’s rotting, Keltner says.

One of the film’s high points, though, is its depiction of sadness, Keltner says. In many books and movies for kids, he says, sadness is dismissed as a negative emotion with no important role.

In Inside Out, star-shaped Joy gets more screen time. But when the emotions are in danger of getting lost in the endless corridors of long-term memory, it is Sadness, downcast and shaped like a blue teardrop, who emerges as an unlikely heroine.

For kids, Keltner says, that makes “a nice statement about how important sadness is to our understanding of who we are.”

Popular autism theories and science have a huge disconnect – Scott Lilienfeld explains why @US_Conversation

Science debunks fad autism theories, but that doesn’t dissuade believers

By Scott O Lilienfeld, Emory University

According to a 2014 National Consumers League poll, 29% of American adults believe that childhood vaccinations can trigger autism. To many, these views are difficult to comprehend. After all, multiple controlled studies conducted on huge international samples have debunked any statistical association between vaccines and autism. Moreover, when the Danish government removed thimerosal – a mercury-bearing preservative that most anti-vaccine advocates regard as the suspect ingredient – from its vaccines in the late 1990s, the rates of autism went up rather than down. Why, then, does the belief persist?

Well, it’s not that surprising. The false link between autism and vaccines is merely the tip of a massive iceberg of fads and misconceptions. In a 2008 review, psychologist Tristram Smith of the University of Rochester Medical Center identified more than 50 disproven or unsupported therapies for autism that were still in use, and the number has only mushroomed since then. These therapies run the gamut from gluten-free and casein-free diets, anti-fungal treatments, Pepcid, testosterone and secretin to dolphin-assisted therapy, magnetic shoe inserts, hypnosis, hyperbaric oxygen chambers, sheep stem cell injections, trampoline therapy…and on and on.

Debunking another fad treatment – facilitated communication

Despite the prevalence of these fad therapies, relatively few scientists who study autism have raised their voices to rebuke these methods. Perhaps that is because most do not regard public outreach as part of their job description.

In a recent article in the journal Evidence-Based Communication Assessment and Intervention, my co-authors Julia Marshall, Howard Shane, James Todd and I examined the persistence of facilitated communication, a scientifically discredited autism therapy. The premise of facilitated communication is that autism is primarily a movement disorder, not a mental disorder. As a consequence of supposed motor deficits, individuals with autism cannot articulate words properly, which presumably explains why many are incapable of speech. With the aid of a facilitator who offers gentle support to their arms, previously uncommunicative individuals with autism can supposedly type eloquent sentences and paragraphs.

If it all sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is.

Scores of controlled studies performed soon after the widespread introduction of facilitated communication to the United States in the early 1990s demonstrated that its seeming effectiveness is a mirage. Facilitators are unintentionally directing autistic individuals’ fingers to the desired letters, much as Ouija board players unknowingly direct the planchette to specific letters and numbers.

We found that facilitated communication, despite being debunked by the late 1990s, remains alive and well in much of the autism community. The method continues to be widely practiced in the US and parts of Europe. It’s still publicized in numerous trade and academic books, seminars, workshops and high-profile documentaries.

This revelation has taken many of our academic colleagues by surprise. One told me that earlier this year, he had invoked facilitated communication in a psychology course as a prime example of a fad that had long been consigned to the dustbin of pseudoscientific history. This is a critical point – for scientists these matters are settled. But that doesn’t mean the information in studies disproving claims from fad therapies has hit the mainstream.

Why is there so much misinformation about autism?

Why is autism such a magnet for fads? And why have discredited ideas endured in the face of contrary evidence? Several likely culprits conspire to create a “perfect storm” making those desperate for a cure or an effective treatment receptive to misinformation.

In the case of the autism-vaccine link, the soaring increase in autism diagnoses over the past two decades is certainly a contributor. But there is growing evidence that much of this spike reflects two factors: increasingly lax criteria for autism diagnosis across successive editions of the official psychiatric diagnostic manual (DSM), and heightened incentives for school districts to report autism and other developmental disabilities.

There is therefore ample reason to doubt that the “autism epidemic” actually reflects a genuine increase in the frequency of the condition. But the dramatic rise in diagnoses has led many people to believe in shadowy causal agents, such as childhood vaccinations.

The fact that the symptoms of autism typically become evident at about age two, soon after routine vaccinations begin, lends this belief further surface plausibility. The link in timing is coincidental, but some people connect the dots into a tidy causal narrative.

And many fad treatments for autism are surely born of desperation. There are no known cures for the condition. It’s not surprising that most parents of children with autism simultaneously seek out four to six different treatments for their children. Nor it is surprising that this field has been remarkably fertile ground for ostensible quick fixes, such as facilitated communication.

And some probably fall victim to a diabolical illusion. A number of the behavioral problems associated with autism, such as inattention and anger, often wax and wane over brief periods of time. If a natural – and unrelated – downtick in symptoms happens during or after therapy is delivered, parents and teachers may then conclude that the treatment brought the improvement, even though the decline in symptoms would probably have occurred anyway.

With autism, we sometimes see what we want to see

Appearance shapes how we view autism. Children with autism do not have the distinctive facial markers of, say, children with Down Syndrome or fetal alcohol syndrome. That fact might lead some to assume that individuals with autism are cognitively and emotionally normal individuals trapped inside a malfunctioning body. If that is so, all that is presumably required is an intervention, such as facilitated communication, to unlock their unrealized mental potential.

The popularity of autism fads imparts two sobering lessons. First, we can all be misled by the raw data of our sensory impressions. Virtually all autism misconceptions stem largely from what psychologists call naïve realism, the error of placing uncritical trust in our unfiltered observations. Second, scientists need to play a more active role in combating false information about autism and other mental disorders.

When researchers conduct studies that dispel the alleged dangers of vaccines or the alleged effectiveness of pseudoscientific treatments, they may assume that their job is done. That’s not the case. The legacy of autism fads suggests that their real work may have only just begun.


Tristram Smith’s study “Empirically supported and unsupported treatments for autism spectrum disorders” appeared in the Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice. 2008; 6:3–21.

The Conversation

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