Tag Archive | "Department of Psychology"

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Psychology’s ROSE Program Presents HBO’s ‘The Weight of the Nation’ April 10 at Cosford Cinema

The ROSE (Reaching Out to Students Everywhere) Program at the University of Miami’s Department of Psychology will present a free screening of  The Weight of the Nation, an HBO documentary about America’s obesity epidemic, at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 10, at the Cosford Cinema, 5030 Brunson Drive, on the Coral Gables campus. The movie will be followed by a panel discussion with UM faculty. To RSVP, call 305-284-6708 or email ROSE@psy.miami.edu.

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Taming Wandering Minds: UM Researchers Show Mindfulness Helps Undergraduates

By Marie Guma-Diaz and Annette Gallagher
UM News

Coral Gables, Fla. (January 9, 2014) — Few situations present as much distraction and time pressure as the college experience. In this environment, attention can be elusive and difficult to sustain even when it is attained. This lack of concentration interferes with learning and is associated with stress, which tends to increase during the academic term.

Now, a form of mental training called mindfulness training, specifically designed for undergraduate students, shows promise as a tool to train attention and improve learning during the academic semester, according to a new study by a team of University of Miami researchers.

The study is the first to examine the incidence of mind wandering and the impact of mindfulness training, at different time points in the academic calendar. The findings are published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

“This work was the first to integrate mindfulness training into the academic semester by embedding training in students’ course schedules, hosting training in the academic building to best accommodate their schedules, and providing a supervised space for mindfulness exercises,” says Amishi Jha, associate professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences, and principal investigator of the study.

Mindfulness is a mental state in which a person pays attention to the present experience without ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. Mindfulness training (MT) emphasizes attention-building exercises and learning to observe the activity of the mind, according to Jha.

For the study, 58 UM undergraduate students participated in an experiment testing the effectiveness of a seven-week mental training program designed to tame the mind wandering and increase focus.

The students were assigned to either the MT group or a control group, who received no training. All participants completed two testing sessions, one at the start of the semester and again at the end of the training interval, as final exams neared. Attention was measured by examining overall accuracy and other performance measures in a computer task of sustained attention. The students also self-reported the incidence of mind wandering during the task.

The results indicate that the groups did not differ at the start of the semester. However, by the end of the training interval, the control group showed diminished attention and reported increased mind wandering, while those who participated in the program showed significant improvements in attention and no increase in reported mind wandering.

The study is titled “Taming a Wandering Attention: Short-form Mindfulness Training in Student Cohorts.” Co-authors are Alexandra B. Morrison, postdoctoral associate in psychology; Merissa Goolsarran, research associate in psychology; and Scott L. Rogers, director of the Mindfulness in Law Program at UM School of Law.

Future studies will seek to work with larger cohorts. The researchers also want to look specifically at how MT may not only impact laboratory measures of mind wandering but  also real-world mind wandering, which could influence academic learning, decision making, and psychological stress.

This research is funded by the U.S. Department of Defense to determine how to best offer effective MT that has low time requirements while also being highly effective in high-stress cohorts

As a result of Jha’s work, UM is implementing a campus-wide mindfulness initiative, which will include a speakers and retreat series beginning in March, creation of a website with mindfulness information for all UM constituents, and the formation of a student group dedicated to the study and practice of mindfulness training.

Annette Gallagher can be reached at 305-284-1121.

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Mothers’ Sensitivity Helps Language Development in Children with Hearing Loss

Children with cochlear implants who receive positive regard and emotional support from their mothers develop language skills at a faster rate than those with less sensitive parents, almost “catching up” to children with normal hearing, according to a study by a University of Miami psychologist.

“I was surprised that maternal sensitivity had such strong and consistent effects on oral language learning,” said Alexandra L. Quittner, lead investigator of the study and director of the Child Division in the Department of Psychology in UM’s College of Arts and Sciences. The results of her study, one of the largest and most representative on the effects of parenting on young deaf children who wear cochlear implants, are published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

“The findings indicate that pediatric cochlear implant programs should offer parent training that facilitates a more positive parent-child relationship and fosters the child’s development of autonomy and positive regard,” Quittner said.

Her study investigated the role of parental behavior in language growth for deaf children. Maternal sensitivity was measured in videotaped interactions with the child and defined as the degree to which a mother expressed positive regard for and emotional support of the child.

The study included 188 children between the ages of five months and 5 years with severe to profound hearing loss. In addition to analyzing the effects of maternal sensitivity on language development, the study looked at the impact of cognitive and language stimulation. Parent-child interactions observed and coded included free play, puzzle solving, and an art gallery task with five posters mounted at different heights on the walls of the playroom.

The largest improvements in language development were observed in children whose parents displayed high sensitivity. Language stimulation was also an important predictor of language gains but was most effective when delivered in a sensitive manner. Deaf children with sensitive parents had only a one-year delay in oral language compared to 2.5 years among those with less sensitive parents.

This cohort of deaf and hearing children has now been followed for approximately eight years post-implantation. The National Institutes of Health recently funded the competitive renewal, allowing the researchers to follow them for another five years into adolescence. It will focus on their cognitive and social development as well as their academic achievement.

Contributing to the study are the UM Cochlear Implant Team, including the director of the Barton G Kids Hear Now Program; Ivette Cejas, assistant professor, Department of Otolaryngology; David Barker, assistant professor at Brown University; John Niparko, chair of the Department of Otolaryngology at the University of Southern California (USC); Laurie Eisenberg, clinical professor at USC and the House Ear Institute; and Emily Tobey, professor at the University of Texas in Dallas.


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UM Professor Amishi Jha to Speak at World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

Amishi Jha, associate professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Miami, will present her research on improving attention with mindfulness training at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 23-27.

The World Economic Forum is an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas. Read the full story

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Sexual Assault Response Team Seeks Advocates

The University of Miami Counseling Center’s Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) is seeking dedicated, warm, and empathic faculty, staff, and graduate student volunteers to serve as advocates during the 2013 calendar year. SART, which has supported sexual-assault survivors and concerned others since 1992, is often the first line of response for UM students who have been sexually assaulted, molested, or battered. SART advocates provide hotline callers with much-needed emotional support, information, and referrals, as well as help in accessing resources.

Advocates receive comprehensive training in how to take calls from students in a variety of sexual assault-related situations, a briefing on UM resources that are available to those who have been sexually victimized, and support from the Counseling Center’s licensed mental health professionals.

If you are interested in learning more about this opportunity, please contact Carolyn Eberhardt or Audrey Cleary at 305-284-5511, or email ceberhardt@miami.edu or a.cleary@miami.edu.

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