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Do Children Prefer Playmates Of Same Ethnicity?

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Multicultural daycares don't necessarily foster a desire for kids of visibly different ethnicities to play together. A study on Asian-Canadian and French-Canadian preschoolers has found these children may have a preference to interact with kids of their own ethnic group.

Led by researchers from Concordia University and the University of Montreal, the findings are published in the European Journal of Developmental Psychology.

"We found Asian-Canadian and French-Canadian children seemed to prefer interacting with kids of the same ethnic background," says Nadine Girouard, a research associate in the Concordia Department of Psychology and member of the Centre for Research in Human Development (CRDH). "Both groups were more interactive with children of the same ethnicity and, when matched with kids from another background, preferred solitary play."

This study builds on previous investigations that have shown preschoolers prefer to play with children of the same ethnic group. The research team also observed how multicultural playmates could influence conflict among peers of the same ethnicity - findings that contradict previous studies.

"We observed that Asian-Canadian children frequently removed or attempted to remove toys from each other," explains Girouard. "When interacting with peers of the same ethnicity, Asian-Canadian pre-schoolers were more competitive."

Participants were recruited from six daycares located in Montreal and its suburbs: 30 mostly, second-generation Asian-Canadians and 30 French-Canadians. Children were paired with peers they had known for at least three months. According to the research team, social mores likely prompted a lack of interaction between cultures.

French-Canadian children used longer sentences when interacting with same-ethnic peers, yet decreased their verbal interactions when playing with Asian-Canadian peers. "Children of both groups adapted their behaviours by speaking less in the case of French-Canadian children and by speaking more in the case of Asian-Canadian children," says coauthor Dale Stack, a professor in the Concordia Department of Psychology and CRDH member.

"Consistent with some past research, self-expression and social initiation are highly valued in Canadian culture, self-restraint and cooperation may be more important in Chinese and Asian-Canadian culture and this has an impact on multicultural peer interactions," she continues.

Coauthor Monica O'Neill-Gilbert, a retired University of Montreal psychology professor, says the findings could prove important for new Asian-Canadian families during acculturation.

About the study:
The paper, "Ethnic differences during social interactions of preschoolers in same-ethnic and cross-ethnic dyads," published in European Journal of Developmental Psychology, was coauthored by Nadine Girouard and Dale M. Stack of Concordia University and Monica O'Neill-Gilbert University of Montreal.

Source:
Sylvain-Jacques Desjardins
Concordia University

 

The Brain Chemistry Of Obese Dieters Works Against Their Weight-Loss Efforts

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If you've been trying to lose weight and suspect your body's working against you, you may be right, according to a University of Illinois study published in Obesity.

"When obese persons reduce their food intake too drastically, their bodies appear to resist their weight loss efforts. They may have to work harder and go slower in order to outsmart their brain chemistry," said Gregory G. Freund, a professor in the U of I College of Medicine and a member of U of I's Division of Nutritional Sciences.

He particularly cautions against beginning a diet with a fast or cleansing day, which appears to trigger significant alterations in the immune system that work against weight loss. "Take smaller steps to start your weight loss and keep it going," he said.

In the study, the scientist compared the effects of a short-term fast on two groups of mice. For 12 weeks, one group consumed a low-fat diet (10 percent fat); the other group was fed a high-fat (60 percent fat) and had become obese. The mice were then fasted for 24 hours. In that time, the leaner mice lost 18 percent of their body weight compared to 5 percent for the obese mice.

Freund said that there is an immune component to weight loss that has not been recognized. "Our data show that fasting induces an anti-inflammatory effect on a lean animal's neuroimmune system, and that effect is inhibited by a high-fat diet. Some of the brain-based chemical changes that occur in a lean animal simply don't occur in an obese animal," he said.

This breakdown occurs because obese animals resist downregulation of genes that activate the interleukin-1 (IL-1) system and associated anti-inflammatory cytokines, he said.

The scientist also studied differences in the behavior of the two groups of mice, monitoring how much they moved, administering tests to discern the animals' ability to learn and remember, and noting whether the mice exhibited signs of depression or anxiety.

The results suggest that beginning a diet with a fast or near-fast may alter brain chemistry in a way that adversely affects mood and motivation, undermining the person's weight-loss efforts.

"The obese mice simply didn't move as much as the other mice. Not only was there reduced locomotion generally, they didn't burrow in the way that mice normally do, and that's associated with depression and anxiety," he said.

Beginning a weight-loss program in a depressed frame of mind and with decreased motivation doesn't bode well for the diet's success, he noted.

Source:
Phyllis Picklesimer
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

 

Depression And Negative Thoughts

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We all have our ups and downs-a fight with a friend, a divorce, the loss of a parent. But most of us get over it. Only some go on to develop major depression. Now, a new study, which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggests part of the reason may be that people with depression get stuck on bad thoughts because they're unable to turn their attention away.

People who don't recover from negative events seem to keep going over their troubles. "They basically get stuck in a mindset where they relive what happened to them over and over again," says Jutta Joormann, of the University of Miami. She co-wrote the new study with Sara Levens and Ian H. Gotlib of Stanford University. "Even though they think, oh, it's not helpful, I should stop thinking about this, I should get on with my life-they can't stop doing it," she says. She and her colleagues thought people with depression might have a problem with working memory. Working memory isn't just about remembering a shopping list or doing multiplication in your head; it's about what thoughts you keep active in your mind. So, Joormann thought, maybe people who get stuck on negative thoughts have problems turning their mind to a new topic.

Joormann and her colleagues recruited 26 people with depression and 27 people who had never had depression. Each person sat in front of a computer and was shown three words, one at a time for a second each. Then, they were told to remember the words either in the order they were presented or in backward order. The computer then presented one of the three words and they were supposed to respond as quickly as they could whether that word was first, second, or third in the list. The faster they were able to give a correct answer, the better they were at thinking flexibly.

People with depression had trouble re-ordering the words in their head; if they were asked to remember the words in reverse order, they took longer to give the correct answer. They had a particularly hard time if the three words had negative meanings, like "death" or "sadness."

"The order of the words sort of gets stuck in their working memory, especially when the words are negative," Joormann says. She also found that people who had more trouble with this are also more likely to ruminate on their troubles. She hopes that these findings point towards a way to help people with depression, by training them to turn their minds away from negative thoughts.

Source:
Association for Psychological Science

 

Study Of Gambling Behaviour May Improve Understanding Of Risky Choices And Gambling Addictions

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Psychology researchers at the University of Alberta have found an interesting wrinkle in the decision-making process people use when gambling: People confronted with risky choices respond differently when they rely on past experiences, rather than when they just focus on the odds of winning or losing.

The research team gave people two kinds of choices. One was a choice between a sure win versus a double-or-nothing win. The other choice was between a sure loss versus a double-or- nothing loss. In some cases the odds were explained to the volunteer gamblers, and sometimes the players were just left to learn their chances through their experience playing the game.

Surprisingly, most people made the exact opposite choices when they were told the odds, opposed to when they learned about them on their own. With experience, the test subjects started to gamble on the double-or-nothing for wins and they avoided the risky choice for losses. Their gambling tendencies were reversed when they were told the odds.

"We think that people choose in fundamentally differently ways when they are remembering their past wins and losses than when they are thinking about abstract future possibilities," said U of A researcher Marcia Spetch. "When basing choices on memory, people may focus more on the bigger wins and the bigger losses."

Beyond this novel finding, this research provides a new task for studying gambling behavior that may one day help in understanding risky choice behavior and gambling addictions. A follow-up study is being conducted by the same research group using the same gambling task, and participants will be hooked up to MRI equipment to identify areas of the brain involved in risky decision making.

Notes:

The research was led by Spetch and Elliot Ludvig from the U of A's departments of psychology and computing science. Ludvig is now a researcher at Princeton University. The research was published June 1 in the journal PLoS ONE.

Source:
Brian Murphy
University of Alberta

 

Indoor Tanning Runs in the Family

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When it comes to indoor tanning, sometimes mother doesn’t know best. Results of a new survey by the American Academy of Dermatology (Academy) found that a large percentage of Caucasian teen girls and young women who use tanning beds reported that their mothers also use tanning beds.

When asked if anyone in their immediate or extended families uses a tanning bed, indoor tanners were more than twice as likely to have a family member who used a tanning bed (65 percent) compared to their non-indoor tanning peers (28 percent). Specifically, indoor tanners were four times as likely (42 percent) to indicate that their moms use tanning beds than those respondents who were not indoor tanners (10 percent).

Studies show indoor tanning increases a person’s risk of melanoma by 75 percent. Melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – is increasing faster in females 15-29 years old than in males of the same age group.

“Mothers who tan indoors are not only putting themselves at risk for skin cancer, but they also may be putting their daughters at risk,” said dermatologist Ellen S. Marmur, MD, FAAD, associate professor of dermatology at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. “The survey shows how influential mothers can be on their daughters’ behavior, and that is why it’s critical for mothers to set a good example by not tanning.”

The vast majority of indoor tanners also reported that their own use of tanning beds was not a secret in their families. When questioned as to whether their parents were aware of their use of tanning beds, 94 percent of indoor tanners indicated that their parents did know that they were using or have used a tanning bed.

In addition, the survey indicated that a number of teens and young women feel pressured to be tan by their peers. For example, the survey found that those respondents who used tanning beds in the past year were nearly twice as likely to indicate feeling peer pressure to be tan (49 percent) compared to respondents who were not tanning bed users (28 percent). A vast majority of indoor tanners (96 percent) also reported having friends who tan indoors and/or outdoors.

“Tanning is a dangerous, unhealthy behavior, similar in seriousness to smoking or drinking alcohol, where teens often succumb to peer pressure,” said Dr. Marmur. “Yet, it is troubling that so many parents are aware of their teens’ use of tanning beds and allow this harmful behavior to continue or even set a bad example themselves by indoor tanning. We urge parents to educate their teens about the dangers of UV exposure from tanning beds and to discourage or prohibit this activity for all family members.”

Source: American Academy of Dermatology

 
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