Social and Behavioural
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Before an infant can learn the link between a word and an object by following a pointing gesture, Professor Nancy Rader’s team has found that infants can learn this association through ‘show gestures’. Show gestures entail bringing an object towards the child and rotating it, while synchronizing the movements with speech. While the effect of show gestures decreases with age during childhood, Rader and her colleagues have found that non-verbal children on the autism spectrum are very sensitive to this information, performing as well in learning words as age-matched typically-developing children.
Axel Marx | Oliver Westerwinter – Understanding How the EU Interacts with Global Governance Institutions
The importance of the EU in global governance has been well researched. However, systematic analysis of the way it interacts with other international organisations has been side-lined. To address this gap, Axel Marx the University of Leuven and Oliver Westerwinter at the University of St. Gallen introduce a special issue of the Journal of European Integration. The research published in this issue explores how the EU interacts with different types of global governance institutions.
Migrants travel hopefully, dreaming of better lives. Some are successful, some less so. Many in both groups ultimately decide to return to their home country. Dr Tony Ward, a University of Melbourne historian, is himself a migrant, and descended from a family that returned from Australia. He sought out other stories of return migration from Australia to the UK in the 19th Century. His studies shed light on more general questions. How many migrants return? Which migrants are more likely to make the trip home? And why?
Past studies unveiled geographic associations in branding, with consumers in different locations preferentially purchasing goods from specific countries or regions. Professor Junhong Chu at Hong Kong University and the National University of Singapore recently carried out a study exploring inequalities and geographical differences in the patterns of trade between different Chinese provinces. Her findings highlight different factors that can contribute to these observed geographic branding asymmetries, including distance, home-biases, migration, ethnicity, and cultural similarities.
Stroke can impair a person’s ability to communicate, resulting in a disorder known as aphasia. To facilitate recovery, scientists must understand how language is processed normally as well as how a stroke may impact the language system in the brain. Dr Cynthia K. Thompson, Ralph and Jean Sundin Professor of Communication Science and Professor of Neurology at Northwestern University, has been researching normal and disordered language for over thirty years. Her focus is on understanding and supporting the recovery of language processes when the brain has been damaged.
Capitalism and neoliberalism inform the way in which children in the USA are schooled. Mainstream education prioritises standardisation and conformity, and may not help students develop a sense of themselves, or tools to create good relationships with others. In a recent paper, teachers Austina Lee and Gareth Dylan Smith explore how this can be challenged through ‘punk’ pedagogy. They use the case study of a high-school choir to demonstrate how their ideas can be put into practice.
Child labour is a major social problem that contributes to poor physical health and lower educational achievement. A collaborative research team from Australia, India and the Netherlands conducted a large-scale study of children in rural areas of India. The team’s research confirms the hugely negative mental health impacts of child labour, and opens up important implications for policy, practice and future research.
Professor Victor de Munck | Exploring Different Courtship Styles from an Anthropological Perspective
Like other animals, humans have unique ways of approaching a potential mate and securing their affections. The goal of these ‘wooing’ processes is generally to establish a long-term romantic relationship with the person of interest. Victor de Munck, a Professor of Anthropology at Vilnius University, recently carried out a fascinating study exploring the most common patterns of courtship observed in the United States today, and the cultural influences underpinning these patterns.
Sexual pain, often referred to as vaginismus and dyspareunia, can be a debilitating condition that prevents many women from having penetrative sexual intercourse. While many studies have investigated this disorder, its psychological underpinnings are not yet fully understood. Dr Thula Koops, Christian Wiessner, Professor Johannes Ehrenthal, and Professor Peer Briken at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf recently explored some of the psychological dimensions of women’s sexual pain. They conducted this research from the standpoint of psychodynamics, which involves exploring links to childhood experiences and unconscious thoughts and feelings.
Limited research has explored the causes of sexual pain and difficulties with intercourse that are experienced by women across the world. Dr Thula Koops and Professor Peer Briken at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf have spoken to women experiencing these difficulties and listened to their real stories and thoughts on the origins of their sexual difficulties. Based on these interviews, two main themes emerged. The first links these difficulties to perceived implications of womanhood, while the second focuses on the separation between body and mind in relation to the cause.
Dr Veronica Marconi | Exploring Views About Which Migrants Deserve Anti-Trafficking Assistance in Tuscany, Italy
Human trafficking is defined as the recruitment and coercion of individuals into labour or other activities that entail their exploitation. While victims of human trafficking can be led to engage in any type of labour or criminal activity, most anti-trafficking efforts primarily focus on people who are exploited in sex work. Dr Veronica Marconi of Oregon State University recently carried out a study aimed at better understanding how anti-trafficking organisations in the Italian region of Tuscany determine which migrants are deserving of their assistance.
Human rights defenders Leyla and Arif Yunus played a crucial role in Azerbaijan’s politics and modern history. After being sentenced to 8.5 years in jail by the Azerbaijani government and being released due to health issues, Leyla and Arif Yunus shared the suffering and torture they endured as regime opponents and political prisoners in a book entitled The Price of Freedom. Dr Audrey L. Altstadt, a Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, recently published a short article outlining the dynamics underlying the arrest of the two political activists and the struggle described in their book.
The ownership of goods, including both material objects and immaterial goods such as intellectual property, is defined by property regimes. Property regimes are sets of rules that define ownership. They determine who can own goods, legitimate ways of acquiring and using them, and duties associated with owning them. Two important categories of property regimes are private property and common property regimes. Private property regimes focus on ownership by a single person or entity, while common property regimes involve ownership by several people or entities. Nina Gmeiner and her colleagues from the research project RightSeeds explored the recent emergence of a class of property regimes known as progressive commons.
Bridge is a popular card game played socially and competitively by millions of people throughout the world. Each game consists of four players divided into two pairs, or ‘partnerships’. They compete against each other to win ‘tricks’ through cooperation, strategic thinking and logical deduction. Professor Samantha Punch at the University of Stirling leads ‘Bridge: A MindSport for All’. This research-led project explores the benefits of bridge amongst the circuit of international players.
Propaganda is the systemic use of language with the intent to brainwash rather than to persuade. Deceptive communication designed to mislead the masses is commonplace in the Information Age. Dr Robert Walsh of Sisseton Wahpeton College in South Dakota recently examined how propagandists bend language for mass deception. He argued that what makes propaganda insidious is a vestige of our prehistoric past – the Neolithic or Tribal Mind.
Debra Klages | Post-traumatic Growth in Health Professionals Who are Mothers of Adult Children with Schizophrenia
For young people with schizophrenia, their first experience of psychosis is often highly traumatic. Because of the close, nurturing relationships mothers typically have with their children, they too can experience trauma while witnessing their children’s disturbing psychotic episodes. As a result, mothers of adult children with schizophrenia often experience negative impacts on their physical and psychological health. Debra Klages takes a unique perspective by shedding light on how the traumatic experiences of health professionals with dual roles as mothers can lead to personal and professional growth and resilience.
Psychophysics is the formal study of perception – our sensory experience of the world. Professor Zygmunt Pizlo at the University of California-Irvine explains that while symmetry is fundamental in both physics and mathematics, it is also fundamental to our understanding of vision. He believes there is much to gain in expanding the existing boundaries of psychology, cognitive science and neuroscience by embracing established fundamentals in physics.
The Multi-theory Model of Health Behavior Change: Understanding Meditation, or ‘Dhyana’ | Professor Manoj Sharma
Meditation is the regular, purposeful practice of becoming aware of one’s bodily sensations, thoughts, or other points of focus. Professor Manoj Sharma, a global health promotion leader and Chair of the Social and Behavioral Health department at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, wished to test whether a health behavioral model that he developed could explain why adults begin and maintain a meditation practice. While this multi-theory model – or ‘MTM’ – has been applied to many health-related behaviors, two domains are core to the model: initiation of a health behavior and sustenance of this behavior.
Professor Kieran Kilcawley | Using Flavour Chemistry to Identify Biomarkers Behind the Sensory Perception of Irish Grass-fed Beef and Lamb
For many consumers, the origin of the food they buy is of great importance. For instance, Irish beef and lamb is often seen as superior quality meat, as the animals are typically reared outdoors on a diet of predominately fresh grass. However, are Irish beef and lamb actually any different to meats produced elsewhere, from animals reared indoors in less sustainable production systems? Professor Kieran Kilcawley and his team at the Teagasc Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, in conjunction with University College Dublin, are investigating the ‘flavour chemistry’ of beef and lamb. Their aim is to determine whether there are fundamental differences in the chemical properties of meat due to the animal’s diet and origin.
Voter turnout plays a key role in the functioning of democracies. If only a minority of citizens vote, the elected government might not accurately represent the views of the population. In contrast, when voter turnout is high, a country’s government has a strong mandate to make decisions on its citizens’ behalf. The geographical distributions of voters and voter turnout also significantly affect the outcome of elections. Dr William Durkan of Maynooth University in Ireland recently explored the changing geographies of voter turnout in US presidential elections from 2012 to 2020, using the state of Michigan as a case study.
Sarah Leighton | Can Psychiatric Assistance Dogs Help Military Veterans with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder?
Psychiatric assistance dogs trained to help with mental health symptoms have become increasingly popular as a complementary intervention for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Sarah Leighton and her colleagues from Purdue University and the University of Arizona in the USA are exploring the effectiveness of psychiatric assistance dog partnerships for military veterans with PTSD.
Following the global financial crisis of 2007 and 2008, a related economic emergency known as the Euro Crisis spread throughout Europe. To counter this crisis, the EU imposed a series of austerity measures in the worst-hit countries, which fuelled outrage across Europe. However, it is unclear whether citizens were more outraged about these policies because they had been implemented by EU institutions rather than national governments. Professor Sonia Alonso and Professor Ignacio Sánchez-Cuenca recently set out to understand whether the willingness of citizens to accept unpopular policies varies depending on whether they were introduced by their national governments or by EU institutions.
Dr Darren Sharpe, University of East London – Cultivating Young People’s Empowerment and Participation in Society
Young people are central to a country’s growth and development, as they bring fresh perspectives and innovation. However, the path towards gaining full inclusion in society can be arduous for many youths, particularly those from marginalised and disadvantaged backgrounds.
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