Archive of 2010 PsycEXTRA® Sample Searches Podcasts

November 2010

Step Your Game Up

Turns out print could have been just a whistle-stop in human development. At least, technologies other than print are being hailed as a much more efficient means of communication for accelerating the reach and speed of human achievement. Online video, self-organizing groups on the Internet, and mobile devices are all contributing to a synergistic revolution that is occurring at lightning speed.

Researchers who need the latest information from a spectrum of sources in addition to print can find PsycEXTRA's content invaluable. For example, a search in PsycEXTRA limited to videos as the source, keywords "online," "web," or "Internet" and "innovation," and 2008 through 2010 yields fascinating results, among them the following:

Chris Anderson: How Web Video Powers Global Innovation (2010). In his theory of crowd accelerated innovation, Anderson enthusiastically promoted online video as the perfect ecosystem for creative progress, as it takes advantage of video's speed, universal reach, and appeal to passionate groups of viewers. You need just three things: a crowd, which the web provides; "light," or open visibility, which the videos themselves provide; and a passionate response, which comes from the right receptive viewers. The result is powerful feedback loops in which viewers are able to combine elements from and compare themselves with the best in a field.

Anderson provided compelling examples of how effectively and quickly online video has raised the bar in pursuits from breakdancing to cell biology research to transforming a trash pile in Africa's biggest shantytown into a garden that is feeding more than 30 families. Already, the idea has been borrowed and applied to everything from games to online learning to real estate photography.

Related research comes in The Child-Driven Education (2010), a web site video clip distributed by TEDGlobal that features education scientist Sugata Mitra, who discussed the most frustrating paradox of modern education: Those who need good education the most don't get it.

To counter the problem, Dr. Mitra conducted a series of global experiences that showed that children with access to the Internet can teach themselves effectively. He simply embedded a computer in a wall in a New Delhi slum where children barely went to school. Now the children not only learn, but they teach each other. Importantly, he found a single child in front of a single computer is not able to do what a group of children with access to the Internet can in a self-organizing educational system.

Yet another video in the TED series, How Cognitive Surplus Will Change the World (Shirky, 2010), defined "cognitive surplus" as "shared online work we do with our spare brain cycles." Kicked off by a crisis mapping experiment in Kenya in which one researcher asked for help from others using their computers and mobile phones to provide a map of election abuses when the media had blocked coverage, the aggregated efforts were able to provide an accurate map.

The technique has since been used to track snow cleanup in DC and in Haiti to track the aftermath of the earthquake. It went from a single idea in East Africa in the beginning of 2008 to a global development in less than three years.

October 2010

The Ghost in the Machine

The owner of the company that makes the Segway died recently from injuries suffered in a fall after driving his Segway off a cliff. If you remember the massive buzz that surrounded the unveiling of the Segway, billed in 2002 as the "future of human transportation," and the collective yawn and giggle that its appearance elicited, then there is something almost tragic — as well as ironic — in the fall of this modern man–machine centaur.

To use the Segway as segue in our annual tribute to Halloween, humankind often teeters on the lip between innovation's possibilities and consequences and often drives blithely ahead. A researcher with a scientific and mechanical bent, let's call him Dr. Frankenstein, interested in braving that divide might be interested in what he could find in the PsycEXTRA database to push the human–machine nexus in the "spooky" area of artificial intelligence.

Specifically, what research is available on speech recognition by electronic "others," like a computer, mobile device, or car, in which a person talks and the device listens, comprehends, and responds? In what format might you find results?

By searching the word "patent" in an Any Field search with "speech recognition" or "artificial intelligence" as keywords, our scientist would get a robust 13 results.

Among those results are the following:

  • "Emotion Recognition Method and Device" (Oudeyer, 2008) details a patent for a method of detecting an "emotion conveyed in a voice signal," which comprises sequential steps outlined as a series of filtering vocal signals and extracting sound properties.
  • "Adjustable Resource Based Speech Recognition System" (Bennett, 2010) is a method of recognizing a speech utterance from a user at a network server system. The US Department of Commerce described the method as a "real-time speech recognition system that includes distributed processing across a client and server for recognizing a spoken query by a user."
  • "System and Method for Processing Sentence Based Queries" (Bennett, 2010) describes invention systems and methods for processing sentence based queries presented to a search engine using phrase analyses. Sentence based queries from a user are analyzed to determine appropriate answers from an electronic database.
  • "Internet Based Speech Recognition System With Dynamic Grammars" (Bennett, 2010) is for a speech-enabled World Wide Web based computing system that "allows a user to interact with content associated with a web page and select items of interest using speech as a mode of input. Dynamic grammars can assist in the recognition operations to improve speed and comprehension."

All of these systems are geared toward ever-improving real-time, interactive communication that "emulates a human dialog experience." Would you find that useful, Dr. Frankenstein? How 'bout you, Hal?

Happy Halloween!

September 2010

The Deepwater Horizon Catastrophe

It's now been 5 months since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill killed 11 workers and created the biggest oil leak ever to occur in U.S.-controlled waters. By the time the spill was finally capped in mid-July, its consequences had altered virtually every part of life in the Gulf States, and people throughout the country were deeply affected by the unfolding tragedy. Economically, the Gulf States have been devastated, with fisheries, tourism, and the oil drilling industries particularly hard hit. The scope of the environmental disaster's effect on sensitive wetlands and marine life will take years to assess. And the damage to vibrant local populations like long-time resident Cajun families and newer immigrant Vietnamese and Latino communities may well be incalculable.

Part of PsycEXTRA's mission is to make resources available to the public that will help them in a crisis. What sorts of resources might someone seeking help find in the database specific to this crisis?

A search of the database for "oil spill" or Deepwater or "Gulf disaster" that is limited to the past year returns 42 results. Among these, are 11 fact sheets or brochures that address issues or problems that affect specific population groups. They include:

  • Health Department Reminds Residents of Health Information Related to Gulf Oil Spill
  • Oil Spill Dispersant (COREXIT ®EC9500A and EC9527A) Information for Health Professionals
  • Tips for Coping With the Oil Spill Disaster: Managing Your Stress
  • Tips for Dealing With Grief: Due to the Oil Spill Disaster
  • Tips for Oil Spill Disaster Response Workers: Possible Signs of Alcohol and Substance Abuse
  • Tips for Talking to Children & Youth About the Oil Spill Disaster: A Guide for Parents and Educators
  • Traumatic Incident Stress: Information for Deepwater Horizon Response Workers and Volunteers

These materials help the readers identify the issues, recognize symptoms, and understand that they aren't alone in the reactions of grief, stress, confusion, or ill health they may be experiencing. In addition, they provide material help in the form of hotlines, web sites, and offices that are able to assist them resolve issues and find help.

August 2010

The Politics of Day Care

One of PsycEXTRA's most fascinating uses is as a historical archive, a snapshot of where we were on a given issue at a certain time. For instance, it can be easy to forget how today's custom was yesterday's controversy. Today most preschool children routinely spend time in a child care facility of some sort. Yet a battle royal raged in the 1970s in the national arena over day care. Attempts to legislate a comprehensive national policy were attacked for reasons ranging from economics, to politics, developmental psychology, and morality.

The PsycEXTRA database has more than 2,200 records on child care issues. But limiting our results to the window of the 1970s and federal legislation, we find material on the Comprehensive Child Development Act of 1971.

Reported in the Division of Developmental Psychology Newsletter (1973), we find attacks on Professor Urie Bronfenbrenner, one of the experts who testified in defense of the child development provisions of the Act. Conservatives reacted by claiming the professor intended to "destroy motherhood by encouraging day care," and two congressmen misquoted him in the Congressional Record as having written "Recognizing that communal forms of upbringing have an unquestionable superiority over all others, we are faced with the task…of expanding the network of such institutions at such a pace that within fifteen to twenty years they are available—from cradle to graduation—to the entire population of the country." (The quote was a translation of a Soviet authority quoted in one of the professor's books.) When Bronfenbrenner took exception to being called a communist, the spokesman for the Emergency Committee for Children apologized, but he did so saying Bronfenbrenner's "attempts to pass the legislation…led us to believe that the quote was not an altogether unfair summary of your views." The legislation passed in both houses but was vetoed by President Nixon.

Controversy continued to follow attempts to enact child care legislation. A new bipartisan child development bill was introduced and reported (APA Monitor; 1972) to specifically address Nixon's objections, including what he described as the "family-weakening implications of the system it envisions." What came to be known as the Child and Family Services Act, introduced in 1974 and reintroduced in 1975, also sought to soften the controversial points and emphasize the primacy of the family (APA Monitor, 1974).

Yet another APA Division newsletter (Division 7, 1976), reported that Senator Walter Mondale, sponsor of the legislation, in frustration warned that distorted attacks on the bill continued. Misinformation circulated included that "this legislation would somehow give children the legal right to disobey their parents and somehow prohibit parents from providing religious training to their children." Neither version of the bill was enacted.

Nor do we have a clearly defined national policy in the area of child care to this day.

July 2010

Hard Times

By a show of hands, who thinks that sending a person to prison is likely to rehabilitate her and make her less likely to commit a crime when she gets out? In the United States, 1 in 100 adults is in prison or jail, a rate five to eight times that of Europe or Canada. And our prisons are too often a revolving door. That is especially true for the roughly 1 million women who make up the fastest growing segment of the criminal justice system.

A search of the PsycEXTRA database using the terms women, prison*, and recidivism or rehabilitation returned more than 100 results.

Among them were a number of sources that focused on the statistics of incarceration. A "Prisoners in 2008" (the last year for which all statistics are completed) by the Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin (2009) presented data on prisoners in federal, state, and military correctional facilities broken down by gender and ethnicity. A 2009 APA Convention presentation by Robinson and Güss, "Life Inside and Outside of Prison: Recidivism of Female Prisoners" reviewed recent statistics on women. That study conducted a literature search on female prisoners' recidivism rates and found that 85% of women prisoners were back in the prison system within 18 months of their release.

Many sources document how the prison system is failing women. In "Inequality in Prison" (2009), Clark noted that in the American criminal justice system, gender-specific services are not available.  Institutions may have a policy of being gender-neutral, but in prisons, "'gender-neutral' usually means male." In most jurisdictions, though their needs are often greater, women are offered fewer programs than men. For example, the study cited a parenting program offered at 27 men's prisons that is offered at just 2 women's prisons, and even at those 2 it offers fewer resources than men's programs.

Over the past 10 years, the female prison population is up 81% (vs. 45% for men), with 75% having mental health problems (vs. 55% for men), and 78% having substance abuse problems. There are also few programs to help women increase their economic opportunities. Asked about women inmates' opportunities when they leave jail and prison, the codirecter of the Center for Gender and Justice quoted one of his inmates:  "There are two employers out there for us: One is the drug dealer and the other is the pimp."

June 2010

Evidence-Based Practice

The evidence-based practice movement has become an important feature of health care systems and health care policy. This month, we're going to take a look at information in the PsycEXTRA database on evidence-based practice, which integrates individual clinical care with the best available clinical research. To fine-tune a search for specific sources in the database, we're going to focus the search by using controlled language, the content provider field, and the document limit. Specifically, we're researching recent conference abstracts that focus on the use of evidence-based practice with children and adolescents and for which the American Psychological Association is the content owner.

Our search combines Evidence Based Practice as an index term and American Psychological Association as content owner. The search limits by document type to conference abstract and by age group from birth to 17 years. Finally, we use the date field to restrict the search to 2005 to 2010.

The search yields 19 results, which make clear how widely evidence-based treatment is used. Among the results are the following:

In "Theory- and Evidence-Based Assessment—Treatment Links" (2009), Berninger examined how evidence-based practice is used with children in Grade 1 to 7 to treat early intervention for at-risk readers and writers and treatment for reading and writing disabilities. 

"Perspective on Residential and Community-Based Treatment for Youth and Families" (Hopkins, Kamins, Happ, & Hunt, 2009) reviewed a multidisciplinary workgroup on residential treatment of children and adolescents with serious emotional disturbance, which concluded that there was an overreliance on residential treatment and an underreliance on evidence-based alternative treatments.

"Evidence-Based Treatments for Postdisaster Trauma Symptoms in Latino Children" (Costantino et al., 2007) reported on a study that was part of the Child and Adolescent Trauma Treatments and Services Consortium set up to do youth research related to the September 11th attacks. The study explored the evidence-based treatments that had been used with Latino children and concluded that cognitive behavioral treatment was less effective for Latino children.

These are just a few of the many areas in which evidence-based treatment has become the gold standard for treatment the past few years.

May 2010

Avatars—All the World's a Stage

Once, if one was born short, stocky, and gray-eyed, then nature was destiny, and one was likely to remain gray-eyed, stocky, and short. Not any more. Or, at least, one's options have changed in the increasing number of virtual worlds where avatars roam.   Avatars are a computer user's representation of him- or herself through the form of an alter ego, for whom appearance and gender, even species, are choices. And those other-selves are being used in a variety of ways now, beyond gaming. What information is there in PsycEXTRA that could be used to develop research on use of avatars?

If we combine the keyword avatar with variants of the term virtual (for example, Virtual Classrooms or Virtual Reality) found in the Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms, we find a number of results. Many of them focus on how an avatar can be used in teaching.

One example is "Drawing Students In" (DeAngelis, 2009), a newsletter article from the Monitor on Psychology, in which a James Madison University psychology professor who is a short blonde holds office hours as a tall redhead in a Second Life classroom. She sometimes also conducts class from Second Life, and does so as a rat or an African grey parrot to emphasize her animal behavior experience.

In another Monitor article ("Can Second Life Therapy Help With Autism?," 2009), DeAngelis also reported on how avatars can be used to treat those with Asperger's syndrome or other autism spectrum disorders by helping them to learn social skills in a virtual environment.

Yet another innovative use of avatars pedagogically was presented in a conference abstract from the 2008 APA Convention. Titled "Head Start Children Improve in Emotion Recognition Following Computer Training" (Perez et al.), the study developed an avatar tutor for use with preschoolers to aid in their socio-emotional development. By using a computer generated tutor, the child is able to experience the visual and auditory components of natural language in a controlled environment that seeks to generalize to the child's everyday life.

The avatar is the most conspicuous online manifestation of people's desire to try out alternative identities or project some private aspect of themselves. As reported by the New York Times ("The Job Interview, Starring Your Avatar," Villano, 2008), they are now even being used in job interviews by a handful of companies. The Harvard Business Review (Hemp, 2006) also noted the incredible potential of avatars in marketing.

These are just a few of the many research areas opened up by virtual selves that have developed in the past few years. These and other materials on this emerging topic can be found in the PsycEXTRA database.

April 2010

The Bully Pulpit on Anti-Bullying

There has been a spate of high-profile bullying cases in recent years. Most recently, in March nine Massachusetts teenagers were charged for taunting and physical threats against a high school freshman so extreme they drove her to hang herself. Bullying is not new, but there are some who suggest that adolescent bullying has actually gotten worse in recent years, thanks in part to the new tools available through social networking and text-messaging.

Turning to the APA PsycEXTRA database, what would we find on the topic? A search using the Index Terms "Bullying" OR "Aggressive Behavior," limited by Age Group to those from 6 to 17 years and to results published within the past 2 years yielded 110 results, among them, the following:

  • A US Department of Education report, "Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2009" (Dinkes, Kemp, Baum, & Snyder, 2009) presented the most recent data available on school crime and student safety drawn from a variety of data sources. The sources included national surveys of students, teachers, and principals and compared indicators of crime and safety across population subgroups over time.
  • A US Department of Justice National Criminal Justice Reference Service bibliography, "Internet Crimes Against Children: An Annotated Bibliography of Major Studies (Lewis, Miller, & Buchalter, 2009), reviewed the findings from the past 10 years for bullying-related incidents.
  • A report from Child Trends, "Assessing Bullying: A Guide for Out-of-School Time Program Practitioners" (Sidorowicz, Hair, & Milot, 2009), included information on how to measure bullying and promote positive peer conflict resolution techniques. The report included The Peer Relations Questionnaire (PRQ) for Children, designed to assess students' tendency to bully, to be bullied, or to help others.
  • A press release from the State of Maryland, "State Board Approves Model Policy Designed to Curb Bullying Behavior" (2009), announced the state's policy on bullying behavior and the requirement that school systems submit copies of their own anti-bullying policy to the State Superintendent.

March 2010

Be Prepared

PsycEXTRA is a resource for academic research, but it is also a good resource for "news you can use" in your everyday life. For example, in the wake of wide-scale emergencies in the last several years—from terrorist attacks and power failures to hurricanes, earthquakes, and recent snow emergencies—the topic of preparedness is one that hits very close to home. PsycEXTRA can help with the practical details of how an individual or family should prepare for when an emergency occurs.

Let's look at some specifics. If you searched using the index term "Emergency Preparedness" and limited your findings to the past five years, you'd come up with a list of about 120 results. Among those, there is a 2009 New York Times article, "How to Prepare for an Emergency" (Romano) that discussed emergency organizations' suggestions to homeowners and renters on how to think through possible scenarios and prepare for emergencies.

The Family Psychologist, a newsletter for the Society for Family Psychology, looks at the issue in "Children and Families in the Context of Disasters: Implications for Preparedness and Response" (Pfefferbaum & North, 2008). The article examined the emotional and behavioral effects of family adaptation to disasters and made specific recommendations for preparedness among different categories of family members (for example, between parents, parent to child, between siblings) both prior to and in the aftermath of a disaster. Suggestions on resources for mental health, trauma, and exposure to media coverage were included.

There is increasing evidence of the significance of diverse factors, including age, gender, and culture and cohort, as determinants of emergency or disaster outcomes for individuals. PsycEXTRA provides information specifically for various populations, from conference presentations on psychological issues for seniors in disasters (Gutman, Gibson, & Kloseck , 2009) to newsletter articles on community emergency response training specifically for Native American communities (Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, 2008). These two articles were also linked to federal government and Red Cross emergency plan-ahead resources.

February 2010

It's Time to Stand Up and Be Counted

We are now in 2010, and as for the past 220 years, any year that ends in a zero brings the decennial US Census. As the Census Bureau states, "the future of your community starts with a look into its past." And the Census Bureau, both through the decennial Census and the additional surveys it conducts, provides a fascinating and unique source of research data. You may access a variety of material from the Census Bureau in PsycEXTRA.

One of the searchable fields in PsycEXTRA is Content Owner, so entering "census" in the field will bring up reports and press releases produced by the US Department of Commerce Census Bureau. The data provide a snapshot of an area or population at a given moment in time on a host of issues ranging from changes in poverty rate and other economic studies, to home ownership patterns, to percentage of mothers and older workers in the labor force, to portraits of our diversity as a nation, including racial, ethnic, and ancestry groups.

Virtually all Census publications in PsycEXTRA are also a doorway to invaluable source material. For example, a press release titled "Fewer Mothers With a Recent Birth Rely on Government Assistance Than in 1996" (U.S. Census Bureau, 2008) reported on recent trends of new mothers participating in six public assistance programs. The press release also links directly to a Census Bureau web site that includes a Survey of Income and Program Participation, information on the surveys and their content, reports from the data, detailed data sets and historical data, and information on the source of data and accuracy of the estimates, including standard errors and confidence intervals.

So contribute to the 2010 snapshot of America and march to the mailbox with your filled out census form! We can't go forward until you mail it back.

January 2010

Go Forth and "Multiply"

When then-President of Harvard Lawrence Summers made comments at a 2005 Cambridge conference suggesting that women may not have the same innate abilities in math as men, it created an uproar among some members of the academic community that continues to this day. In the ensuing years, a number of researchers have examined the facts of the so-called "gender gap" in math. What resources are there in PsycEXTRA on this topic?

A search using the terms Mathematical Ability OR Mathematics Achievement and Human Sex Differences OR Human Females from the APA Thesaurus yields intriguing results from a variety of sources. For example, in a Monitor on Psychology article (Price, 2008), results showed that the genders perform at the same level when girls or women have the right educational tools and role models. Fact sheets for each of the 50 states reporting the 2009 mathematics results for children in Grade 4 (U.S. Department of Education) that provide information comparing students by gender show little difference between the genders in most states.

However, that equality changes with the introduction of the gender stereotype that "men perform better than women at math." Mathematics and gender stereotype are the subjects of a number of conference abstracts and presentations. At the 2009 APA Convention, authors Cvencek, Meltzoff, and Greenwald reported new measures in "Girls and Math: Stereotypes and Math Self-Concepts in Young Children," that allow the examination of cultural stereotypes in the development of math self-concepts.

Steinberg, Okun, and Aiken (2009), at the APA convention, reported that situational cues that make math stereotypes relevant showed that mention of gender stereotypes adversely affected the performance of high math ability women. Likewise, authors Dar Nimrod and Heine (2007) presented findings reporting that women performed more poorly completing math tests following a manipulation in which they were told that sex differences in math have genetic basis.