Dr. Val FarmerDr.Val
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Picking Up A Harvest Of Information

September 29, 1997

Every year I try to attend the annual convention of the American Psychological Association and pick up papers summarizing the latest research in the field. It is like the annual harvest of crops in the field. For a psychologist in the media like me, it is like being a kid in a candy store.

Here are some juicy tidbits from this year’s crop of papers presented at the 105th annual convention held in Chicago this year.

Commuting: People who commute distances as either passengers or drivers have less frustration tolerance and are less able to solve complex problems after their commute than those don't commute.

Intelligence: Some people believe that low IQ parents are having more children than high IQ parents in the U.S. The study shows that racial differences in IQ decreased from 1973 to 1988 and have remained fairly constant since. Differences in intelligence between the upper and lower thirds of social class groups have been decreasing slightly since 1932. The PSAT score differences between the top and bottom quartiles have been relatively stable since 1961.The researchers conclude the different segments of our society are remaining the same or are growing more alike.

Tobacco: Researchers found that nicotine when administered to smokers in measured doses through a nasal spray developed three characteristics typical of tobacco dependence. 1. Smokers show an increased tolerance to nicotine. 2. Smokers are able to notice the stimulation effects. 3. Smokers self-administer more nicotine when tobacco deprived than when not deprived. Nicotine is the agent for creating dependence.

Sexist jokes: Women who were exposed to sexist jokes were compared with women who listened to non-sexist jokes. The study showed that sexist jokes negatively affect a women's mood. Women reported being feeling more angry, disgusted and hostile. Observers rated their nonverbal facial expressions as showing disgust, contempt and embarrassment.

Long Term Effects of DARE on high school seniors. Researchers found that students male students who received the DARE program in the sixth grade didn't differ from non-DARE students in later alcohol use, marijuana use or cigarette smoking. However, DARE students used fewer hard core drugs such as inhalants, cocaine, LSD and amphetamine/barbiturates. The authors believe that peer pressure overwhelms resistance to "acceptable" drugs during the middle teen years but DARE participants have increased resistance to more deviant "outsider" drugs when they became available at older ages.

Elder Abuse: Researchers found that the lower the self-esteem of participants of the study, the more likely they would view abusive caretaking behavior as justifiable. Participants with low self-esteem also judged the elder's own behavior to be abusive and thus deserved a caretakers' abuse.

Expert witnesses: Trial participants feel that the procedure and outcomes are fair when the court appointed expert is not the only expert interpreting the evidence. This finding held up even when the expert witness was supporting the trial participant's interpretation of the evidence. The perception of fairness increases by having an adversarial expert or a second court-appointed expert.

Men and weight: Overweight men view themselves as thinner than they actually are. Underweight men view themselves as heavier than their actual weight. Overweight men thought they were normal weight and had no negative psychological effects. Men who were normal weight who felt they were overweight also saw themselves and their romantic partner in a favorable manner.

However, men who were underweight or who thought of themselves as underweight judged themselves as small, weak and powerless and having fewer romantic relationships than their overweight and normal weight peers.

Gender and teasing: Women feel more guilty than men when they tease and feel worse when they are the victim of teasing. Relative to women, men are socialized to tease more frequently and to more effectively handle being teased.

Punishment and long term anti-social behavior: Research has shown there is usually a causative relationship between harsh punishment of young children and the development of aggressive and anti-social behavior. However, for a subsample of 3rd grade boys, harsh punishment reduced aggressive behavior. These were boys who closely identified with their fathers. In a ten-year follow-up, there was no relation between aggression and parental punishment.

However, when these same individuals were interviewed 22 years later - along with their spouses and children - researchers found in their records of public behavior a relationship between early harsh punishment and the amount of aggression they showed 22 years later.

How to intervene when a friend wants to drive drunk: A study highlighted the differences between individuals who had successfully or unsuccessfully tried to prevent another person from driving drunk. An intervener was most effective when he or she made a forceful and specific demand - such as saying, "I'm driving!" or, "Give me the keys!" - coupled with a physical action such as taking the keys. Attempting to reason with the impaired person or by asking them to relinquish the keys was ineffective.