Older Adults Gauge Their Partner’s Feelings Through Knowing, Not Seeing

Compared to younger adults, older people are less adept at reading emotion in their spouse’s face. But when their spouse isn’t present, older and younger adults are equally able to discern their significant others’ moods.

These findings, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggest that older adults retain the ability to make accurate judgments about others’ emotions using their acquired knowledge, but not sensory cues.

“When judging others’ emotions in real life, people do not exclusively rely on emotional expressions,” says lead researcher Antje Rauers of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Germany. “Instead, they use additional information, such as accumulated knowledge about a given situation and a particular person.”

To investigate how these two processes vary with age, Rauers and colleagues Elisabeth Blanke and Michaela Riediger recruited 100 couples, some of whom were between the ages of 20 and 30 and some of whom were between the ages of 69 and 80. When they came to the lab, Rauer and colleagues first showed various faces to the participants, asking them to identify particular emotions.

Full story of gauging feelings through knowing at Science Daily

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

Even Mild Stress Can Make It Difficult to Control Your Emotions

Even mild stress can thwart therapeutic measures to control emotions, a team of neuroscientists at New York University has found. Their findings, which appear in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, point to the limits of clinical techniques while also shedding new light on the barriers that must be overcome in addressing afflictions such as fear or anxiety.

“We have long suspected that stress can impair our ability to control our emotions, but this is the first study to document how even mild stress can undercut therapies designed to keep our emotions in check,” said Elizabeth Phelps, a professor in NYU’s Department of Psychology and Center for Neural Science and the study’s senior author. “In other words, what you learn in the clinic may not be as relevant in the real world when you’re stressed.”

In addressing patients’ emotional maladies, therapists sometimes use cognitive restructuring techniques — encouraging patients to alter their thoughts or approach to a situation to change their emotional response. These might include focusing on the positive or non-threatening aspects of an event or stimulus that might normally produce fear.

But do these techniques hold up in the real world when accompanied by the stress of everyday life? This is the question the researchers sought to answer.

To do so, they designed a two-day experiment in which the study’s participants employed techniques like those used in clinics as a way to combat their fears.

Full story of mild stress and emotions at Science Daily

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

Potential Role of ‘Love Hormone’ Oxytocin in Brain Function Revealed

In a loud, crowded restaurant, having the ability to focus on the people and conversation at your own table is critical. Nerve cells in the brain face similar challenges in separating wanted messages from background chatter. A key element in this process appears to be oxytocin, typically known as the “love hormone” for its role in promoting social and parental bonding.

In a study appearing online August 4 in Nature, NYU Langone Medical Center researchers decipher how oxytocin, acting as a neurohormone in the brain, not only reduces background noise, but more importantly, increases the strength of desired signals. These findings may be relevant to autism, which affects one in 88 children in the United States.

“Oxytocin has a remarkable effect on the passage of information through the brain,” says Richard W. Tsien, DPhil, the Druckenmiller Professor of Neuroscience and director of the Neuroscience Institute at NYU Langone Medical Center. “It not only quiets background activity, but also increases the accuracy of stimulated impulse firing. Our experiments show how the activity of brain circuits can be sharpened, and hint at how this re-tuning of brain circuits might go awry in conditions like autism.”

Full story oxytocin the love hormone at Science Daily

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

Facebook Infidelity Examined in New Research

Thanks to a new study by Texas Tech University researchers, treating infidelity among couples may change due to the unique aspect of social networking sites, specifically Facebook.

Using data from Facebookcheating.com, researchers found that although the stages of coping with online infidelity are unique, the infidelity itself creates similar emotional experiences for the partner who was cheated on.

“This is very important because there is a line of thought that if the infidelity was discovered online, or confined to online activity, then it shouldn’t be as painful,” said Jaclyn Cravens, a doctoral candidate in the Marriage & Family Therapy Program and lead author of the study.

During her master’s program clinical work, Cravens discovered many of her clients’ relationship issues stemmed from online infidelity thanks to an increasing number of people using social media sites, especially Facebook.

“Facebook already has changed the dynamics of relationships,” Cravens said. “We see when our ‘friends’ are getting into a relationship. We say a relationship isn’t ‘official’ until it’s ‘Facebook-official.'”

Full story of facebook infidelity at Science Daily

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

Couples’ Thoughts During Disagreements Affect Relationship Satisfaction

People who are unhappy in their romantic relationship spend more time during a disagreement thinking about how angry and frustrated they are, but happy couples coordinate their thoughts so that when one partner has many emotional thoughts, the other has few, according to a new study recently published online in the National Communication Association’s journal, Communication Monographs.

“Among happy couples, when one partner is thinking a lot about disagreement or anger, the other instead may be thinking about how to understand his or her partner or how to resolve the conflict,” said lead investigator Anita Vangelisti, Ph.D., professor of communication at the University of Texas at Austin.

The findings, Vangelisti said, show that people’s thoughts during a conflict situation reflect and shape their own relationship satisfaction and can even affect how happy their partner is.

Vangelisti and her colleagues studied 71 young unmarried heterosexual couples in Texas, who had been together an average of three years. Each person was encouraged to privately express his or her thoughts aloud to a researcher while in a separate room from the other partner and while communicating about a topic of conflict with the partner via a computer chat program. The chat program showed the person’s typed messages in one section and the partner’s replies and messages in another section, but did not display the person’s vocalized thoughts, which were tape recorded.

Full story of couples disagreements at Science Daily

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education