Tag Archive | "Department of Psychology"


Department of Psychology Lecture: Adaptation and Computation in Evolutionary Psychology

1:30 pm

Michael McCullough, professor of psychology and director of the Evolution and Human Behavior Laboratory, and Debra Lieberman, assistant professor of psychology, will present a Department of Psychology colloquium on “Adaptation and Computation in Evolutionary Psychology” on Tuesday, April 10 from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at the Flipse Building, Room 502.

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UM Study: Religious People Better at Forgoing Immediate Satisfaction

A new study by a University of Miami professor finds that religious people are better able to forgo immediate satisfaction in order to gain larger rewards in the future. The study, published online in the journal of Evolution and Human Behavior, is the first to demonstrate an association between religious commitment and a stronger preference for delayed, but more significant, rewards.

“It’s possible to analyze virtually all contemporary social concerns, from excessive credit card debt to obesity, as problems of impulsivity. So the fact that religious people tend to be less impulsive has implications for the sorts of decisions they make with their money, time, and other resources,” says Michael McCullough, professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences and principal investigator of the study. “Their tendency toward less impulsive decision-making might even be relevant to their stands on public policy issues, such as whether governments should be seeking to reduce their expenditures on public services and entitlement programs in the current economic environment.”

In the study, entitled “Religious people discount the future less,” 277 undergraduate University students, from a variety of religious denominations and ethnic backgrounds, chose between receiving a small financial monetary reward that the investigators made available immediately (for example, $50 today) or a larger reward that was available only after a longer period of time had passed (for example, $100 six months from now). Participants’ commitment to their religious beliefs and institutions was also measured, among other relevant variables. The data shows that the extent to which the participants follow religious teachings positively correlates with their ability to delay gratification.

The findings suggest that through religious beliefs and practices, people “develop a more patient style of decision making.” According to the study, religion teaches this type of patience by directing people’s attention to the distant future—the afterlife—which may cause their nearer-term future on this earth to feel subjectively closer.

“People who are intrinsically religious and who indicate an interest in the afterlife tend to report that the future feels as though it is approaching quickly and that they spend a lot of time thinking about the future,” the study says.

McCullough’s co-authors on the study are Evan C. Carter and Adam Blake, graduate students, and Carolina Corrales, undergraduate student, in the Department of Psychology at UM; and Jungmeen Kim, associate professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. McCullough is also director of the Evolution and Human Behavior Laboratory at UM.


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Stress Management for Breast Cancer Patients May Affect the Course of the Disease

A team of researchers led by Michael H. Antoni, director of the University of Miami’s Center for Psycho-Oncology Research, has shown that a stress management program tailored to women with breast cancer can alter tumor-promoting processes at the molecular level. The new study, recently published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, is one of the first to link psychological intervention with genetic expression in cancer patients.

In the study, researchers found that a group-based intervention called Cognitive-Behavioral Stress Management (CBSM) can have an effect on which genes in the cells of the immune system are turned on and off and in ways that may facilitate better recovery during treatment for breast cancer.

“For the women in the CBSM groups, there was better psychological adaptation to the whole process of going through treatment for breast cancer and there were physiological changes that indicated that the women were recovering better,” said Antoni, professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and program leader of biobehavioral oncology at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. “The results suggest that the stress management intervention mitigates the influence of the stress of cancer treatment and promotes recovery over the first year.”

Previous research has shown that during times of adversity, our nervous and endocrine systems send signals to the immune system, which defends us from disease. In response, our body activates specific genes inside immune cells called white blood cells or leukocytes, Antoni explains.

“For the women who participated in the intervention groups, the genes that signal the production of molecules associated with a healthy immune response, such as type I interferon, were up-regulated—meaning they were producing more of these substances compared with levels seen in the control group,” Antoni said. “At the same time, the genes responsible for the production of substances involved in cancer progression, such as pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, and matrix metalloproteinases were down-regulated.”

CBSM is a ten-week group-based program developed at UM that combines relaxation, imagery, and deep breathing, along with cognitive behavior therapy, which is designed to help patients reduce bodily tension, change the way they deal with intrusive stressful thoughts, decrease negative moods, and improve their interpersonal communication skills. In the study, 79 women undergoing primary treatment for stage III breast cancer were randomized into a ten-week CBSM program or a psychoeducational control group in the weeks following surgery. Six-month and 12-month follow-up assessments were conducted.

“You essentially have this timeframe in a woman’s life where she is getting diagnosed with breast cancer, followed by surgery, then chemotherapy or radiation, and it’s very stressful,” Antoni said. “This can be an emotionally and physically exhausting period offering little opportunity for recovery. If stress affects the immune system in a negative way, then their recovery could be slowed down, and those patients taking longer to recover may be at risk for poorer health outcomes. Conversely, if stress management intervention can reduce the impact of stress on the immune system, then recovery may be hastened.”

The research team plans to follow the women in this cohort to see if CBSM intervention and its effects on leukocyte gene expression are predictive of recurrence and/or long-term health outcomes.

The National Cancer Institute and The Pap Corps, Champions for Cancer Research funded the study, which is titled “Cognitive-Behavioral Stress Management Reverses Anxiety-Related Leukocyte Transcriptional Dynamics.”


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Psychologist Charles S. Carver Receives Prestigious Jack Block Award

Charles S. Carver

Charles S. Carver, distinguished professor of psychology in the University of Miami’s College of Arts and Sciences, has received the Jack Block award given by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP), the largest organization of social and personality psychologists in the world. The honor is in recognition of his research accomplishments over the past 30 years, which have shaped modern personality psychology.

The award was presented to Carver at the 13th annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology on January 26 in San Diego, California.“This is a wonderful honor both for me and for my many collaborators,” Carver said. “Although the award is given to only one person, it really belongs to all of us.” Read the full story

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Goldie Hawn Tours Cognitive Neuroscience Lab


Goldie Hawn Tours Cognitive Neuroscience Lab

Academy Award-winning actress Goldie Hawn visited the lab of Amishi Jha, associate professor in the Department of Psychology in UM’s College of Arts and Sciences. Jha has served as scientific advisor of the Hawn Foundation, started by Goldie Hawn to help cultivate mindful attention and joy in children. Hawn met with Jha, students, Department of Psychology Chair Rod Wellens, UM Trustee Stuart Miller, Miller School of Medicine Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, and UM alumnus and hi-tech entrepreneur Alex Daily to discuss Jha’s research on the cognitive neuroscience of mindfulness training and the connection of her work with ongoing efforts of Hawn’s foundation. Hawn toured the Jha Cognitive Neuroscience Brainwave Recording Lab located in the Flipse Building on the Coral Gables campus.

Above, from left, are UM psychology alumna Cristina Garcia, Goldie Hawn, UM psychology department research associate Justin Dainer-Best, Amishi Jha, Dean Pascal Goldschmidt, and Rod Wellens.


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