Wednesday, September 6, 2017

A randomized controlled evaluation of a secondary school mindfulness program for early adolescents

A randomized controlled evaluation of a secondary school mindfulness program for early adolescents: Do we have the recipe right yet? Catherine Johnson et al. Behaviour Research and Therapy,

•    We investigated the .b mindfulness program for a second time in early adolescents.
•    We tightened adherence to the manualised curriculum.
•    Parental involvement was added in one arm of the RCT design.
•    We found no differences between the mindfulness groups with/without parental involvement and the control group.
•    Further research is required to identify optimal age and content of school-based mindfulness programs.


Objective: Mindfulness is being promoted in schools as a prevention program despite a current small evidence base. The aim of this research was to conduct a rigorous evaluation of the .b (“Dot be”) mindfulness curriculum, with or without parental involvement, compared to a control condition.

Method: In a randomized controlled design, students (Mage 13.44, SD 0.33; 45.4% female) across a broad range of socioeconomic indicators received the nine lesson curriculum delivered by an external facilitator with (N = 191) or without (N = 186) parental involvement, or were allocated to a usual curriculum control group (N = 178). Self-report outcome measures were anxiety, depression, weight/shape concerns, wellbeing and mindfulness.

Results: There were no differences in outcomes between any of the three groups at post-intervention, six or twelve month follow-up. Between-group effect sizes (Cohen's d) across the variables ranged from 0.002 to 0.37. A wide range of moderators were examined but none impacted outcome.

Conclusions: Further research is required to identify the optimal age, content and length of mindfulness programs for adolescents in universal prevention settings.

Keywords: Mindfulness; Adolescence; Schools; Transdiagnostic; Prevention

The Pervasive Problem With Placebos in Psychology - Why Active Control Groups Are Not Sufficient to Rule Out Placebo Effects. Walter R. Boot et al. Perspectives on Psychological Science, Volume: 8 issue: 4, page(s): 445-454,

Abstract: To draw causal conclusions about the efficacy of a psychological intervention, researchers must compare the treatment condition with a control group that accounts for improvements caused by factors other than the treatment. Using an active control helps to control for the possibility that improvement by the experimental group resulted from a placebo effect. Although active control groups are superior to “no-contact” controls, only when the active control group has the same expectation of improvement as the experimental group can we attribute differential improvements to the potency of the treatment. Despite the need to match expectations between treatment and control groups, almost no psychological interventions do so. This failure to control for expectations is not a minor omission—it is a fundamental design flaw that potentially undermines any causal inference. We illustrate these principles with a detailed example from the video-game-training literature showing how the use of an active control group does not eliminate expectation differences. The problem permeates other interventions as well, including those targeting mental health, cognition, and educational achievement. Fortunately, measuring expectations and adopting alternative experimental designs makes it possible to control for placebo effects, thereby increasing confidence in the causal efficacy of psychological interventions.

Monopoly without a monopolist : An economic analysis of the bitcoin payment system

Monopoly without a monopolist : An economic analysis of the bitcoin payment system. Jacob D. Leshno, Gur Huberman, and Ciamac Moallemi. BIS Central Bank Research Hub - Series: Bank of Finland Discussion Papers.

Abstract: Many crypto-currencies, Bitcoin being the most prominent, are reliable electronic payment systems that operate without a central, trusted authority.  They are enabled by blockchain technology, which deploys cryptographic tools and game theoretic incentives to create a two-sided platform.  Profit maximizing computer servers called miners provide the infrastructure of the system.  Its users can send payments anonymously and securely.  Absent a central authority to control the system,  the paper seeks to understand the operation of the system:  How does the system raise revenue to pay for its infrastructure?  How are usage fees determined?  How much infrastructure is deployed?

A simplified economic model that captures the system’s properties answers these questions. Transaction fees and infrastructure level are determined in an equilibrium of a congestion queueing game derived from the system’s limited throughput.  The system eliminates dead-weight loss from monopoly, but introduces other inefficiencies and requires congestion to raise revenue and fund infrastructure.  We explore the future potential of such systems and provide design suggestions.

Sabotaging Another: Priming Competition Increases Cheating Behavior in Tournaments

Rigdon, M. L. and D'Esterre, A. (2017), Sabotaging Another: Priming Competition Increases Cheating Behavior in Tournaments. Southern Economic Journal. doi:10.1002/soej.12232

Abstract: Trophy. Goal. Dominated. Does priming individuals with competitive concepts such as these influence the temptation to cheat? We utilize a standard laboratory cheating task in a tournament setting and test whether nonconscious priming impacts the nature of cheating behavior. The results demonstrate an asymmetry in a winner-take-all setting: a competitive prime does not increase cheating to improve one's own outcome, but does significantly increase the willingness of an individual to sabotage a competitor.

Decreased Brain pH as a Shared Endophenotype of Psychiatric Disorders

Decreased Brain pH as a Shared Endophenotype of Psychiatric Disorders. Hideo Hagihara et al. Neuropsychopharmacology, Sept 06 2017; doi: 10.1038/npp.2017.167

Abstract: Although the brains of patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder exhibit decreased brain pH relative to those of healthy controls upon postmortem examination, it remains controversial whether this finding reflects a primary feature of the diseases or is a result of confounding factors such as medication and agonal state. To date, systematic investigation of brain pH has not been undertaken using animal models that can be studied without confounds inherent in human studies. In the present study, we first reevaluated the pH of the postmortem brains of patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder by conducting a meta-analysis of existing data sets from 10 studies. We then measured pH, lactate levels, and related metabolite levels in brain homogenates from five neurodevelopmental mouse models of psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism spectrum disorder. All mice were drug naive with the same agonal state, postmortem interval, and age within each strain. Our meta-analysis revealed that brain pH was significantly lower in patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder than in control participants, even when a few potential confounding factors (postmortem interval, age, and history of antipsychotic use) were considered. In animal experiments, we observed significantly lower pH and higher lactate levels in the brains of model mice relative to controls, as well as a significant negative correlation between pH and lactate levels. Our findings suggest that lower pH associated with increased lactate levels is not a mere artifact, but rather implicated in the underlying pathophysiology of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

The Impact of Price Controls: Evidence from US Debit Card Interchange Fee Regulation

The Impact of Price Controls in Two-Sided Markets: Evidence from US Debit Card Interchange Fee Regulation. Mark Manuszak and Krzysztof Wozniak. Federal Reserve Working Paper, July 2017,

Abstract: We study the pricing of deposit accounts following a regulation that capped debit card interchange fees in the United States and provide the first empirical investigation of the link between interchange fees and granular deposit account prices. This link is broadly predicted by the theoretical literature on two-sided markets, but the nature and magnitude of price changes are key empirical issues. To examine the ways that banks adjusted their account prices in response to the regulatory cap on interchange fees, we exploit the cap's differential applicability across banks and account types, while accounting for equilibrium spillover effects on banks exempt from the cap. Our results show that banks subject to the cap raised checking account prices by decreasing the availability of free accounts, raising monthly fees, and increasing minimum balance requirements, with different adjustment across account types. We also find that banks exempt from the cap adjusted prices as a competitive response to price changes made by regulated banks. Not accounting for such competitive responses underestimates the policy's impact on the market, for both banks subject to the cap and those exempt from it.

Keywords: Equilibrium effects, Financial supervision and regulation, Interchange fees, Retail banking and debit cards, Two-sided markets
JEL Classification: G21, G28, L51

My comment: Knowing the lawmaker that, if he reduces profits in some areas of work (in this case, capping most debit card fees), the profits must be reaped in another area of work (decreasing the availability of free accounts, raising monthly fees, and increasing minimum balance requirements), why do the legislator make these interventions? To the politician, 1  it is a way to be seen doing something to fight fees that the customers (and family members in Thanksgiving dinner) resent;  2 has almost no costs for him.

Beliefs about obedience levels in studies conducted within the Milgram paradigm

Beliefs about obedience levels in studies conducted within the Milgram paradigm; Better than average effect and comparisons of typical behaviours by residents of various nations. Tomasz Grzyb and Dariusz Dolinski. Front. Psychol., doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01632

Abstract: The article presents studies examining whether the better-than-average effect (BTA) appears in opinions regarding obedience of individuals participating in an experiment conducted in the Milgram paradigm. Participants are presented with a detailed description of the experiment, asked to declare at what moment an average participant would cease their participation in the study, and then asked to declare at what moment they themselves would quit the experiment. It turned out that the participants demonstrated a strong BTA effect. This effect also concerned those who had known the results of the Milgram experiment prior to the study.

Interestingly, those individuals – in contrast to naive participants – judged that the average person would remain obedient for longer, but at the same time prior familiarity with the Milgram experiment did not impact convictions as to own obedience. By the same token, the BTA effect size was larger among those who had previously heard of the Milgram experiment than those who had not. Additionally, study participants were asked to estimate the behaviour of the average resident of their country (Poland), as well as of average residents of several other European countries. It turned out that in participants’ judgement the average Pole would withdraw from the experiment quicker than the average Russian and average German, but later than average residents of France and England.

My comment: people believe they would quit the Milgram experiment sooner than others.

Self-reflection Orients Visual Attention Downward

Self-reflection Orients Visual Attention Downward. Yi Liu, Yu Tong and Hong Li. Front. Psychol., Sept 05 2017,

Abstract: Previous research has demonstrated abstract concepts associated with spatial location (e.g., God in the Heavens) could direct visual attention upward or downward, because thinking about the abstract concepts activates the corresponding vertical perceptual symbols. For self-concept, there are similar metaphors (e.g., “I am above others”). However, whether thinking about the self can induce visual attention orientation is still unknown. Therefore, the current study tested whether self-reflection can direct visual attention. Individuals often display the tendency of self-enhancement in social comparison, which reminds the individual of the higher position one possesses relative to others within the social environment. As the individual is the agent of the attention orientation, and high status tends to make an individual look down upon others to obtain a sense of pride, it was hypothesized that thinking about the self would lead to a downward attention orientation. Using reflection of personality traits and a target discrimination task, Study 1 found that, after self-reflection, visual attention was directed downward. Similar effects were also found after friend-reflection, with the level of downward attention being correlated with the likability rating scores of the friend. Thus, in Study 2, a disliked other was used as a control and the positive self-view was measured with above-average judgment task. We found downward attention orientation after self-reflection, but not after reflection upon the disliked other. Moreover, the attentional bias after self-reflection was correlated with above-average self-view. The current findings provide the first evidence that thinking about the self could direct visual-spatial attention downward, and suggest that this effect is probably derived from a positive self-view within the social context.

Great Ape Social Attention

Great Ape Social Attention. Fumihiro Kano and Josep Call. Evolution of the Brain, Cognition, and Emotion in Vertebrates pp 187-206,

Abstract: Recent advances in infrared eye-tracking technology have allowed researchers to examine social attention in great apes in great detail. In this chapter we summarize our recent findings in this area. Great apes, like humans, exhibit spontaneous interest in naturalistic pictures and movies and selectively attend to socially significant elements such as faces, eyes, mouth, and the targets of others’ actions. Additionally, they follow the gaze direction of others and make anticipatory looks to the targets of others’ actions; the expression of these behaviors is adjusted flexibly according to the social contexts, and the viewers’ memories and understandings of others’ goals and intentions. Our studies have also revealed systematic species differences in attention to eyes and gaze following, particularly between bonobos and chimpanzees; several lines of evidence suggest that neural and physiological mechanisms underlying gaze perception, which are related to the individual differences within the human species, are also related to the species differences between bonobos and chimpanzees. Overall, our studies suggest that cognitive, emotional and physiological underpinnings of social attention are well conserved among great apes and humans.

Keywords: Action anticipation, Anticipatory look, Eye contact, Eye movement, Eye tracking, Gaze following, Great ape, Memory

Evolutionary Origin of Empathy and Inequality Aversion

Evolutionary Origin of Empathy and Inequality Aversion. Shigeru Watanabe and Yutaka Kosaki. Evolution of the Brain, Cognition, and Emotion in Vertebrates pp 273-299,

Abstract: An important function of emotion is to enable individuals to adapt to the environment through induction of physiological and behavioral responses directly toward, or in anticipation of, biologically significant events such as food and predators. Another important function is to provide a social signal for other individuals in the group. This emotional signal often induces the same emotional state in the observer, a process called emotional contagion, which serves as a surrogate for others to learn through observation and provide cues to take actions in pro-social ways or, on occasions, in Machiavellian ways. Empathy, a term used to encompass these various social functions of emotion, is thus crucial for the survival of many species of animals including humans. In this chapter, we review literature concerning experimental studies of empathy in the laboratory animals, mostly rodents, which could provide a clue to understand the evolutionary origin of empathy. We first review basic findings concerning emotional contagion and introduce recent studies that examined the importance of social comparison in automatic empathetic responses, which indicate that the nonstandard forms of empathy such as envy, schadenfreude, as well as inequity aversion, may exist in rodents. We then discuss the functional significance of empathy by reviewing literature on observational learning and helping behavior. We then offer mechanistic analyses of empathy on the basis of the principles of associative learning. Finally, we discuss the evolutionary origin of social comparison.

Keywords: Emotional contagion Social comparison Envy Schadenfreude Pro-social behavior Associative learning Sexual selection