Posts tagged with "Psych News Daily"

Do therapists Google their patients? A new study finds that, yes, most do

September 13, 2021

Do therapists Google their patients? A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology has found that 24 out of the 28 therapists admitted that they sometimes do, reports Psych News Daily.

And why shouldn’t they, when turnabout is fair play?  A 2016 study, for example, found that most patients do, indeed, look up their therapists online.

As a result, the majority of therapists have taken steps to limit the information that is available about them online. Examples include adjusting their social networking settings to private—or even choosing not to post any information online at all.

But what are the ethics when the professional searches the patient? As the present study’s author, Leora Trub and Danielle Magaldi, write, “There is little discussion within or outside of the field on whether therapists should Google their patients.”

Several recent studies have found the prevalence of therapists who have Googled their patients ranges from 25%  to 98%.

But Trub and Magaldi argue that most studies with very high prevalence rates have over-sampled younger therapists. These young practitioners are more likely to be digital natives, and thus more likely to use online search tools.

For ther study, Trub and Magaldi interviewed 28 therapists that they recruited via psychotherapy listservs. Of these, 25 were psychologists, two were clinical social workers, and one was a marriage and family therapist. Nineteen were female, and nine were male. They ranged in age from 36 to 75, with an average age of 57.

Only 4 of the 28 interviewed therapists said they had not, and indeed would not, search for their patients online. In various ways, these four indicated that doing so would undermine the foundations of the therapeutic relationship. They said online searches would bypass the patient “as the primary source of information,” or that Googling them would be a “boundary violation.”

As one of the interviewed therapists put it, “I’m not a detective, I’m a psychotherapist.”

Those who had indeed Googled their patients “tended to minimize and rationalize the act,” the authors write, “and did not bring it up with patients.”

Likewise, many also experienced “guilt, shame, and defensiveness” when the researchers asked them about it.

Although the study’s goal of learning more about therapists’ use of technology was clear from the outset, many participants nevertheless “got annoyed at being asked about their online searching for patients,” the study says.

When asked about their reasons for looking up their patients online, the most common answer therapists gave was curiosity, often mixed with voyeurism.

Reasos in this category included “a guilty pleasure,” or “a People magazine kind of interest.” One therapist indicated that she sometimes Googled former patients who had left treatment many years beforehand, just to see if they’re still alive, or what they have been up to. “It feels a little like snooping,” she said in her interview with the study’s authors.

Another frequently cited reason was using Google as a way of vetting patients before the first session. “Sometimes you get some odd ducks,” said one therapist who participated in the study.

“I don’t like not knowing where people come from,” said another. “There are some crazy people out there.”

Other therapists have even used Google to establish whether a prospective patient would likely be able to afford the treatment.

Some participants also said researching their patients online could lead to “new insights” that might benefit the therapy. Likewise, some said online searches are in the patient’s best interest. For example, such searches can be seen “as a way to fill gaps in understanding.” Some even indicated that Googling patients provided something akin to “omnipotence.”

Other therapists said Googling is a way of “evening the playing field,” as it was likely that Google had allowed the patient to find the therapist in the first place.

The participants also offered many justifications for their online searches. One was that the Internet has ushered in an era of anonymity. The “anonymity that the analyst relied upon years ago,” said one, “just doesn’t exist anymore.”

Along those same lines, others said that long before Google existed, therapists still sometimes learned details about their patients’ private lives. One participant compared it to living in “a small town — it’s no different than running into a patient in a bar.”

Finally, there was a tendency to claim that the search had been conducted almost inadvertently. Some therapists said that they “just clicked” on a link to the patient’s website, or fell into a “rabbit hole” of one search after another.

Research contact: @PsychNewsDaily

‘I’m enlightened and you’re not’: Study finds spirtual guidance is linked to narcissism, feelings of superiority

July 22, 2021

new study has found that some popular forms of spiritual guidance—such as instruction in energy healing; aura reading; and, to a lesser degree, mindfulness and meditation —correlate with both narcissism and “spiritual superiority,” Psych News Daily reports.

An implicit feature of spiritual training is that it encourages self-compassion and nonjudgmental self-acceptance—enabling followers to distance themselves from their egos and, thereby, from the need for social approval or success.

But as the new paper explains, spiritual training may have the opposite effect. In fact, such guidance may enhance followers’ need to feel “more successful, more respected or more loved,” as the authors Roos Vonk and Anouk Visser, respectively, of Radboud University in The Netherlands and the Behavior Change Group, also in the Netherlands, write. Their paper, “An Exploration of Spiritual Superiority: The Paradox of Self‐Enhancement,” has been published in the European Journal of Social Psychology.

The authors developed a new measure that they refer to as “spiritual superiority.” It measures whether people feel superior to those “who lack the spiritual wisdom they ascribe to themselves.”

The researchers’ questionnaires ask respondents to react to a number of statements—among them, “I am more in touch with my senses than most others,” “I am more aware of what is between heaven and earth than most people,” and “The world would be a better place if others too had the insights that I have now.”

The authors also created three scales that they hypothesized would correlate with spiritual superiority.

The first scale, “spiritual guidance,” relates to how much people try to help others acquire the same wisdom they have acquired. It includes statements such as “I help others whenever possible on their path to greater wisdom and insight,” “I gladly help others to acquire my insights too,” and “I am patient with others, because I understand it takes time to gain the insights that I gained in my life and my education.”

The second scale is “supernatural overconfidence,” and it encompasses self-ascribed abilities in the paranormal domain. Example statements include “I can send positive energy to others from a distance,” “I can get in touch with people who are deceased,” and “I can influence the world around me with my thoughts.”

The third scale, “spiritual contingency of self-worth,” measures how much a person derives their self-esteem from their spirituality. Sample statements include “My faith in myself increases when I acquire more spiritual wisdom” and “When I gain new spiritual insights, this increases my self-worth.”

In three separate studies described in their research article, Vonk and Visser established their scale of spiritual superiority as a valid instrument. Moreover, it correlates significantly with the other three scales. It also correlates significantly with narcissism, self‐esteem, and other psychological variables. Finally, it also correlates, to varying degrees, with diverse forms of spiritual training.

They note that spiritual narcissism has been defined, for example, as “the misuse of spiritual practices, energies, or experiences to bolster self-centered ways of being.”

Other studies define spiritual narcissism as a situation “in which the individual believes he or she has become somehow enlightened in a way that others have not, and operates from a disconnecting stance of spiritual superiority.”

Yet another researcher simply calls it “an ‘I’m enlightened and you’re not’ syndrome, Psych News Daily reports.

The authors argue that the lack of objectivity in the spiritual domain plays a role here. “Like religiosity, spirituality is a domain that seems like a safe and secure investment for self-worth,” they write. “One’s spiritual attainments allow lots of room for wishful thinking, thus easily lending themselves to the grip of the self-enhancement motive.”

And because spiritual matters are generally “elusive to external objective standards,” that makes them a “suitable domain for illusory beliefs about one’s superiority.”

On the other hand, spiritual training may attract people who already feel superior. And the “extensive exploration of one’s personal thoughts and feelings” that spiritual training encourages “may be particularly appealing” to narcissists, the authors write.

Research contact: @PsychNewsDaily

Call of the wild: A new birdsong identifier app distinguishes 400 species, for free

July 5, 2021

A new bird call identifier—called the Merlin Bird ID app and created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithologycan now help you distinguish more than 400 bird species found in the United States and Canada, just by sound, Psych News Daily reports.

If a user holds his or her phone up in the direction of the sound, Merlin will listen and use AI to pinpoint the species. Even if multiple species are singing at once.

A previous version of the app was able to identify 7,500 species based on photos or descriptions. And now the app has added audio.

How did the Cornell researchers do it? Merlin’s AI technology is powered by tens of thousands of citizen scientists who have contributed their bird observations and sound recordings.

“Thousands of sound recordings train Merlin to recognize each bird species, and more than a billion bird observations in eBird tell Merlin which birds are likely to be present at a particular place and time,” Merlin Project Coordinator Drew Weber explained recently.

“Having this incredibly robust bird dataset—and feeding that into faster and more powerful machine-learning tools—enables Merlin to identify birds by sound now,” he added. “This would have seemed like a daunting challenge only a few years ago.

According to Psych News Daily, instead of cracking the problem by teaching computers to identify the actual sounds, researchers at the Cornell Lab trained Merlin to recognize the visual patterns of each bird song based on spectrograms . Those are images that capture the amplitude, frequency, and duration of the sound. The massively popular song-identification app Shazam uses a similar technique.

“The sound recordings that each user makes get quickly turned into spectrograms. And in the same way that Merlin can identify a bird by what it looks like, it can now also now make an ID by what the bird’s sound looks like,” said Merlin’s lead researcher Grant Van Horn.

With one-touch access, a user can also go deeper and learn more about each bird. The app offers ID tips, maps, and more than 80,000 photos and sounds from the Cornell Lab’s Macaulay Library.

“The Merlin app really unlocks a whole new world of sound,” said the Cornell Lab’s Jessie Barry, whose team led the project, adding, “It helps everyone solve the mystery birds they’re hearing around them.”

Research contact: @PsychNewsDaily1

Status envy: We covet social position more than wealth

May 25, 2021

New research has found that we experience more intense status envy than “stuff” envy. That is, our sense of envy is stronger when the object of that resentment is better off socially (for example, in terms having more influence or respect), rather than better off materially (for example, by having more money or a nicer house), Psych News Daily reports.

The study was conducted by researchers from Hungary, France, and the United States—and has been published in the journal, Frontiers in Psychology.

As the researchers explain, humans evolved in complex social environment—and we, therefore, feel the need to respond to social cues about our status relative to others. The emotions that underlie these social dynamics—such as envy—serve to “increase the stability of social hierarchies and avoid costly disputes,” the authors write.

To participate in the study, the researchers recruited about 400 Hungarians via social media. Most were women, and their average age was 32.

The researchers divided the participants into two groups:

  • They instructed one group to think of a friend or acquaintance who was better off than they were materially.That might include having more money, more financial security, or a nicer home.
  • The second group was asked to think of someone who was better off socially—for example in terms of receiving more respect, admiration, or influence.

Both groups also were asked to respond  on a scale of one to ten to a series of statements designed to assess their levels of benign and malicious envy. “Malicious envy” drives people to reduce someone else’s status, whereas “benign envy” motivates people to increase their own status. Then they were asked whether they believed that the envied person’s advantage was “deserved” or “undeserved.”

Overall, Psych News Daily reports, the researchers found that the participants had significantly higher envy ratings for social status than they did for material wealth.

What’s more, respondents were more likely to experience benign envy when they felt the envied person’s advantage was deserved. Likewise, they were more likely to experience malicious envy if they felt that advantage was not derserved.

Demographic factors such as gender, age, and education did not play a significant role.

Research contact: @PsychNewsDaily

About face: We can distinguish between ‘autocrats’ and ‘elected leaders’ in photos with 70% accuracy

May 14, 2021

new study has determined that we can classify a photo of an unfamiliar politician as either an autocrat or a democratically elected leader, with an accuracy of almost 70%.

The respondents also rated the photos of elected leaders as more attractive, likable, warm, and trustworthy than those of the dictators, Psych News Daily reports.

The results of the study—conducted by Canada-based researchers Miranda Giacomin of MacEwan University; and Alexander Mulligan and Nicholas O. Rule of the University of Toronto—were published on February 4 in the journal, Social Psychological and Personality Science.

People’s faces offer many clues about their social status, personality, and political leanings. For example, even children can pick the winner of foreign elections based on quick judgments of facial photographs. People also can correctly classify US political candidates as either Republican or Democratic based on their faces. Similar results have been found in Switzerland.

But these judgments can fluctuate based on the situation. Past research, for example, has found that people prefer dominant-looking leaders during wartime, but prefer leaders with more feminine and trustworthy faces during peacetime. Likewise, CEOs of nonprofits are less dominant-looking than the CEOs of profit-earning organizations.

For the study, the researchers first categorized countries as either “democratic” or “authoritarian,” based on two indices.  The Economist Intelligence Unit’Democracy Index, and the Freedom House’s Freedom in the World report.

They wound up with a list of 160 male heads of state: 80 democratic leaders, and 80 dictators. About 33% currently are in power; and the rest are former heads of state.  No female dictators or democrats were included, as the researchers wanted to eliminate any possible gender bias in the participants’ responses.

The researchers chose one photo of each leader, with the subject looking directly at the camera but not expressing any visible emotion. They converted these photos to greyscale, and cropped them tightly to remove extraneous background information. They excluded photos of very famous leaders such as Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Likewise, they instructed participants to indicate if they recognized any of the photos; whenever they did, those responses were excluded from the results.

The first of the research paper’s two studies consisted of 90 Mechanical Turk participants recruited in the Unites States. Slightly more than half were women, and their average age was 35.

They viewed the 160 faces in random order, one by one, and categorized them at their own pace as either a likely dictator or a likely democratically-elected leader.

The average participant correctly categorized the leaders depicted in the photos as either autocrats or elected leaders just over 69% of the time.

In the second study, the researchers examined which factors led people to classify the portrayed faces as either democrats or dictators. They again recruited participants via Mechanical Turk; this time there were 229 participants.

They asked these participants to rate the same set of 160 photos for the following qualities on a scale of 1 to 8: affect (i.e. happy or sad), attractiveness, competence, dominance, maturity, likability, and trustworthiness.

The participants rated the democratically elected leaders as more attractive, more competent, happier, and warmer. “Warmth” in this context means a combination of likability and trustworthiness.

The authors suggest that these traits make sense in democracies, “where popularity plays a critical role in whether someone emerges as a leader.”

By contrast, they write, “looking colder and less attractive might similarly facilitate the command of authority on which dictators rely to control the citizens of their nations.”

About 61% of the world’s population currently live in a non-democratic country, the study’s authors point out, and that figure is on the rise: A 2018 study found that 112 countries have become less free since 2006.

Despite these worrisome trends, there has been little research into the ways that visual self-presentation might facilitate autocrats’ reign. And that’s why these researchers wanted to examine people’s perceptions of dictators, as doing so could help explain how autocrats “attain and maintain power.”

As this study indicates, people in democracies value justice, openness, and transparency, and voters in democratic countries “prefer politicians whose faces convey warmth through trustworthiness and likability.”

In contrast, dictators who look harsh and cold seem to more closely “match” an authoritarian stye of governance, which might “successfully elicit more fear and intimidation in the population.”

Research contact: @PsychNewsDaily