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Concept: Behaviorism


Kawaii (a Japanese word meaning “cute”) things are popular because they produce positive feelings. However, their effect on behavior remains unclear. In this study, three experiments were conducted to examine the effects of viewing cute images on subsequent task performance. In the first experiment, university students performed a fine motor dexterity task before and after viewing images of baby or adult animals. Performance indexed by the number of successful trials increased after viewing cute images (puppies and kittens; M ± SE = 43.9±10.3% improvement) more than after viewing images that were less cute (dogs and cats; 11.9±5.5% improvement). In the second experiment, this finding was replicated by using a non-motor visual search task. Performance improved more after viewing cute images (15.7±2.2% improvement) than after viewing less cute images (1.4±2.1% improvement). Viewing images of pleasant foods was ineffective in improving performance (1.2±2.1%). In the third experiment, participants performed a global-local letter task after viewing images of baby animals, adult animals, and neutral objects. In general, global features were processed faster than local features. However, this global precedence effect was reduced after viewing cute images. Results show that participants performed tasks requiring focused attention more carefully after viewing cute images. This is interpreted as the result of a narrowed attentional focus induced by the cuteness-triggered positive emotion that is associated with approach motivation and the tendency toward systematic processing. For future applications, cute objects may be used as an emotion elicitor to induce careful behavioral tendencies in specific situations, such as driving and office work.

Concepts: Better, Psychology, Improve, Attention, Performance, Behavior, Human behavior, Behaviorism


Cows' milk generally contains two types of β-casein, A1 and A2 types. Digestion of A1 type can yield the peptide β-casomorphin-7, which is implicated in adverse gastrointestinal effects of milk consumption, some of which resemble those in lactose intolerance. This study aimed to compare the effects of milk containing A1 β-casein with those of milk containing only A2 β-casein on inflammation, symptoms of post-dairy digestive discomfort (PD3), and cognitive processing in subjects with self-reported lactose intolerance.

Concepts: Protein, Psychology, Milk, Behaviorism, Digestion, Lactose intolerance, Cheese, Casein


Observational studies in humans have found associations between overstimulation in infancy via excessive television viewing and subsequent deficits in cognition and attention. We developed and tested a mouse model of overstimulation whereby p10 mice were subjected to audio (70 db) and visual stimulation (flashing lights) for six hours per day for a total of 42 days. 10 days later cognition and behavior were tested using the following tests: Light Dark Latency, Elevated Plus Maze, Novel Object Recognition, and Barnes Maze. In all tests, overstimulated mice performed significantly worse compared to controls suggesting increased activity and risk taking, diminished short term memory, and decreased cognitive function. These findings suggest that excessive non-normative stimulation during critical periods of brain development can have demonstrable untoward effects on subsequent neurocognitive function.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Neurocognitive, Cognitive psychology, Cognition, Memory, Cognitive neuroscience, Behaviorism


Some studies have indicated that social engagement is associated with better cognitive outcomes. This study aimed to investigate associations between life-course social engagement (civic participation) and cognitive status at age 50, adjusting for social networks and support, behavioural, health, social and socio-economic characteristics.

Concepts: Psychology, Cognitive psychology, Sociology, Cognition, Developmental psychology, Behaviorism, Development studies, British nationality law


To evaluate the efficacy, as well as potential moderators and mediators, of a revised acceptance-based behavioral treatment (ABT) for obesity, relative to standard behavioral treatment (SBT).

Concepts: Psychology, Epidemiology, Randomized controlled trial, Free will, Behaviorism


In the present study, we investigated the relation between cognitive performance and heart rate variability as a function of fitness level. We measured the effect of three cognitive tasks (the psychomotor vigilance task, a temporal orienting task, and a duration discrimination task) on the heart rate variability of two groups of participants: a high-fit group and a low-fit group. Two major novel findings emerged from this study. First, the lowest values of heart rate variability were found during performance of the duration discrimination task, compared to the other two tasks. Second, the results showed a decrement in heart rate variability as a function of the time on task, although only in the low-fit group. Moreover, the high-fit group showed overall faster reaction times than the low-fit group in the psychomotor vigilance task, while there were not significant differences in performance between the two groups of participants in the other two cognitive tasks. In sum, our results highlighted the influence of cognitive processing on heart rate variability. Importantly, both behavioral and physiological results suggested that the main benefit obtained as a result of fitness level appeared to be associated with processes involving sustained attention.

Concepts: Time, Psychology, Function, Cardiology, Cognitive psychology, Behaviorism


We present a behavioural task designed for the investigation of how novel instrumental actions are discovered and learnt. The task consists of free movement with a manipulandum, during which the full range of possible movements can be explored by the participant and recorded. A subset of these movements, the ‘target’, is set to trigger a reinforcing signal. The task is to discover what movements of the manipulandum evoke the reinforcement signal. Targets can be defined in spatial, temporal, or kinematic terms, can be a combination of these aspects, or can represent the concatenation of actions into a larger gesture. The task allows the study of how the specific elements of behaviour which cause the reinforcing signal are identified, refined and stored by the participant. The task provides a paradigm where the exploratory motive drives learning and as such we view it as in the tradition of Thorndike [1]. Most importantly it allows for repeated measures, since when a novel action is acquired the criterion for triggering reinforcement can be changed requiring a new action to be discovered. Here, we present data using both humans and rats as subjects, showing that our task is easily scalable in difficulty, adaptable across species, and produces a rich set of behavioural measures offering new and valuable insight into the action learning process.

Concepts: Psychology, Learning, Study skills, Knowledge, Classical mechanics, Intelligence, Behaviorism, B. F. Skinner


Mind wandering episodes have been construed as periods of “stimulus-independent” thought, where our minds are decoupled from the external sensory environment. In two experiments, we used behavioral and event-related potential (ERP) measures to determine whether mind wandering episodes can also be considered as periods of “response-independent” thought, with our minds disengaged from adjusting our behavioral outputs. In the first experiment, participants performed a motor tracking task and were occasionally prompted to report whether their attention was “on-task” or “mind wandering.” We found greater tracking error in periods prior to mind wandering vs. on-task reports. To ascertain whether this finding was due to attenuation in visual perception per se vs. a disruptive effect of mind wandering on performance monitoring, we conducted a second experiment in which participants completed a time-estimation task. They were given feedback on the accuracy of their estimations while we recorded their EEG, and were also occasionally asked to report their attention state. We found that the sensitivity of behavior and the P3 ERP component to feedback signals were significantly reduced just prior to mind wandering vs. on-task attentional reports. Moreover, these effects co-occurred with decreases in the error-related negativity elicited by feedback signals (fERN), a direct measure of behavioral feedback assessment in cortex. Our findings suggest that the functional consequences of mind wandering are not limited to just the processing of incoming stimulation per se, but extend as well to the control and adjustment of behavior.

Concepts: Psychology, Neuroscience, Cognition, Cognitive science, Perception, Mind, Thought, Behaviorism


When established communication systems cannot be used, people rapidly create novel systems to modify the mental state of another agent according to their intentions. However, there are dramatic inter-individual differences in the implementation of this human competence for communicative innovation. Here we characterize psychological sources of inter-individual variability in the ability to build a shared communication system from scratch. We consider two potential sources of variability in communicative skills. Cognitive traits of two individuals could independently influence their joint ability to establish a communication system. Another possibility is that the overlap between those individual traits influences the communicative performance of a dyad. We assess these possibilities by quantifying the relationship between cognitive traits and behavior of communicating dyads. Cognitive traits were assessed with psychometric scores quantifying cooperative attitudes and fluid intelligence. Competence for implementing successful communicative innovations was assessed by using a non-verbal communicative task. Individual capacities influence communicative success when communicative innovations are generated. Dyadic similarities and individual traits modulate the type of communicative strategy chosen. The ability to establish novel communicative actions was influenced by a combination of the communicator’s ability to understand intentions and the addressee’s ability to recognize patterns. Communicative pairs with comparable systemizing abilities or behavioral inhibition were more likely to explore the search space of possible communicative strategies by systematically adding new communicative behaviors to those already available. No individual psychometric measure seemed predominantly responsible for communicative success. These findings support the notion that the human ability for fast communicative innovations represents a special type of complex collaborative activity.

Concepts: Psychology, Assessment, Educational psychology, Behavior, Human behavior, Communication, Behaviorism, Dyadic


People often feel like their minds and their bodies are in different places. Far from an exotic experience, this phenomenon seems to be a ubiquitous facet of human life (e.g., Killingsworth and Gilbert, 2010). Many times, people’s minds seem to go “somewhere else”-attention becomes disconnected from perception, and people’s minds wander to times and places removed from the current environment (e.g., Schooler et al., 2004). At other times, however, people’s minds may seem to go nowhere at all-they simply disappear. This mental state-mind-blanking-may represent an extreme decoupling of perception and attention, one in which attention fails to bring any stimuli into conscious awareness. In the present research, we outline the properties of mind-blanking, differentiating this mental state from other mental states in terms of phenomenological experience, behavioral outcomes, and underlying cognitive processes. Seven experiments suggest that when the mind seems to disappear, there are times when we have simply failed to monitor its whereabouts-and there are times when it is actually gone.

Concepts: Psychology, Cognition, Cognitive science, Perception, Mind, Consciousness, Thought, Behaviorism