Mind Matters — Psychology Is Everywhere

There is no dearth of topics where research in psychology doesn’t have relevant input. I recently unearthed the December, 2016, issue of the American Psychological Association Monitor from my pile of journals and discovered the following “print-bites” of knowledge.

Here are a few. According to a study in Health Psychology, researchers found that tweens and teens handle stress better in families where there is parental warmth. Keep that in mind when your adolescent stresses you out!

Other researchers in the Journal of Non-verbal Behavior report that aggressive people may be identified by their stride. On a personality test that measures aggression, it was found that high scorers also had exaggerated body rotational movement as they walked. This may be, the researchers note, “the first empirical evidence that personality traits can be reflected in gait.”

Health Services Research reports that the Affordable Care Act made it possible for 11.7 million people to buy insurance in the ACA-created marketplace, for 10.8 million to have access to Medicaid coverage, and for 3 million young adults to be included in their parents’ policies. Nevertheless, income, geographic, race, and ethnic disparities exist. At the time of this writing it is unclear what will happen to the health care for the millions of people who are now covered, let alone what will happen to those who never were. The data suggest the need for more coverage for more people. Let us hope our legislators consider the facts.

Research reported in the journal, Health Psychology, found that children with low self-control may be more prone to become smokers as adults, independent of factors such as “socioeconomic background, cognitive ability, psychological distress, gender, and parental smoking.”

Ever wonder about language and its connection to sound? Research reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that “many of the world’s languages use similar sound to describe some objects and concepts. … for example, the words for ‘nose’ are likely to include the sounds ‘neh’ or ‘oo’… .” What comes to mind for me is the word ‘mama’ because the ‘ma’ or ‘m’ sound seems so universal.

Psychologists even do research for the U.S. Forest Service. Dr. Patricia Winter, for example, addresses the interaction of environmental issues with people. Presently, she is part of a team that examines community well-being and risk in Los Angeles as temperatures increase due to climate change. The question they raise and want to answer is how neighborhood parks contribute to community well-being. Studying those California city parks and how the people use them, the researchers discovered both an upside and a downside:

“The good news is that the parks are well used. … The concerning news is that … the communities with the greatest needs—the people from the most vulnerable areas who visited their neighborhood parks—were at greatest risk. In … disadvantaged communities. … ozone level exposure was much higher. … [with] these findings, the discussion takes on an environmental justice component—we need to look at the fact that the people most at risk for being exposed to elevated ozone are also those that tend to have other elevated risk factors.”

The data collected about park use and ozone levels gives guidance on what would be helpful to change. Dr. Winter notes planting the proper trees and other vegetation can give a cooling effect and help “remove pollution, including ozone, from the air.” She also says educating the community about ozone and pollution is necessary too, letting people know that there is usually less ozone in the mornings so that is a better time for “vigorous outdoor activities.”

Psychology touches every part of life—how we walk, how we speak, how we behave, and how our environment affects us and how we affect it. More knowledge gives us more opportunity to make wise choices about ourselves and the world we inhabit.

Information cited here is found in Monitor on Psychology, December, 2016: