News

2021

Screams of 'joy' sound like 'fear' when heard out of context (eScience Commons, March 30, 2021, by Carol Clark)

"Our work intertwines language and non-verbal communication in ways that haven't been done in the past," says Emory psychologist Harold Gouzoules, senior author of the study. PeerJ published the research, the first in-depth look at the human ability to decode the range of emotions tied to the acoustic cues of screams. First author of the study is Jonathan Engelberg, an Emory Ph.D. student of psychology. Emory alum Jay Schwartz, who is now on the faculty of Western Oregon University, is co-author. 
Read the full article

Recent alum of the Berns Lab and Center for Neuropolicy, Dr. Ashley Prichard, publishes 'The mouth matters most: A functional magnetic resonance imaging study of how dogs perceive inanimate objects' in the Journal of Comparative Neurology

The perception and representation of objects in the world are foundational to all animals. The relative importance of objects' physical properties versus how the objects are interacted with continues to be debated. Neural evidence in humans and nonhuman primates suggests animate‐inanimate and face‐body dimensions of objects are represented in the temporal cortex. However, because primates... Read the full article


Heritable traits that appear in teen years raise risk for adult cannabis use (eScienceCommons, March 21, 2021)

Some of the risk for repeated cannabis use into adulthood can be attributed to the genetic effects of neuroticism, risk tolerance and depression, the study found. "While this work marks an important step in identifying genetic factors that can increase the risk for cannabis use, a substantial portion of the factors that raise the risk remain unexplained," says Emory psychologist Rohan Palmer.

Harold Gouzoules on 'Why Do Female Fans Scream for The Beatles and Other Megastars?' in Psychology Today (February 20, 2021)

Girls often scream for pop stars, but why? We still have a lot to learn. Megastars, from Frank Sinatra to Justin Bieber, are often met with hordes of screaming fans, although little is know about this phenomenon. Animals usually scream when reacting to a threat or an attack, but humans scream in unique contexts, such as children screaming when playing. Female fans screaming at a concert may be a competitive effort to get noticed by their idols, according to one hypothesis. Read Harold Gouzoules's piece in Psychology Today


Sherryl H. Goodman et al., publish "Continuity and Stability of Parenting of Infants by Women at Risk for Perinatal Depression" article in Parenting (February 17, 2021)

Findings based on normative samples may not generalize to women with a history of depression, who may benefit from interventions aimed at enhancing their positive parenting over the course of infancy, regardless of postpartum depressive symptom level. Results also underscore the importance of assessing parenting at multiple age points and across varying contexts. Read more about Continuity and Stability of Parenting of Infants by Women at Risk for Perinatal Depression.


Rohan Palmer's Behavioral Genetics of Addiction (BGA) Lab publish "Multi-omic and multi-species meta-analyses of nicotine consumption" in Nature's Translational Psychiatry 

This newest paper from Rohan H.C. Palmer, Chelsie E. Benca-Bachman, Spencer B. Huggett et al., of the BGA Lab, provides proof-of-principle that model organism data can be used to aid the endeavor to identify genetic factors underlying etiologically complex traits. "Multi-omic and multi-species meta-analyses of nicotine consumption" was published in Nature's Translational Psychiatry journal on February 4, 2021.


Recent alum of the Hampton Laboratory of Comparative Primate Cognition, Ryan J. Brady, publishes "Rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) monitor evolving decisions to control adaptive information seeking" in Animal Cognition (January 21, 2021)

Ryan J. Brady, a recent alum of Robert Hampton's Laboratory of Comparative Primate Cognition, now a Marie Curie fellow at St. Andrews in Scotland, published the paper, co-authored with Robert Hampton, in Animal Cognition on January 21, 2021. Rhesus monkeys monitor their own metacognitive state and engage in information-seeking when making decisions. When not confident in making a classification decision, monkeys seek to gain more information before making a choice.


2020

How the brain decides to make an effort: Emory research provides new view of the human mind at work (Emory News, December 3)

Nature Human Behavior published the research by scientists at Emory University. "The willingness to expend effort is something crucial to our survival that we use every day," says Emory psychologist Michael Treadway, senior author of the study. It gives the first detailed view of ventral striatum activity during three phases of effort-based decision-making — the anticipation of initiating an effort, the actual execution of the effort and the reward, or outcome, of the effort. “It’s important to understand the neural mechanisms underlying motivation,” says Shosuke Suzuki, first author of the study and an Emory graduate student of psychology.

The Future of Women in Psychological Science 
(Perspectives on Psychological Science, Online)

There has been extensive discussion about gender gaps in representation and career advancement in the sciences. However, psychological science itself has yet to be the focus of discussion or systematic review, despite the field’s investment in questions of equity, status, well-being, gender bias, and gender disparities. In the present article, it considers 10 topics relevant for women’s career advancement in psychological science. Two of the contributing authors to research article, published on Perspectives on Psychological Science, are Emory psychologists and professors, Sherryl H. Goodman and Stella F. Lourenco.

See also: Gender parity review of psychological science shows progress and problems (eScience Commons)


Experiments reveal why human-like robots elicit uncanny feelings 
(eScience Commons)

Androids, or robots with humanlike features, are often more appealing to people than those that resemble machines — but only up to a certain point. Many people experience an uneasy feeling in response to robots that are nearly lifelike, and yet somehow not quite “right.” The feeling of affinity can plunge into one of repulsion as a robot’s human likeness increases, a zone known as “the uncanny valley.” The journal Perception published the research article authored by recent PhD graduate Wang Shensheng, and Emory psychologists and professors Yuk Fai Cheong, Daniel Dilks, and Philippe Rochat.


Study shows how a single gene drives aggression in wild songbirds

A new study shows how differentiation of a single gene changes behavior in a wild songbird, determining whether the white-throated sparrow displays more, or less, aggression. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) published the research. Jennifer Merritt, first author of the paper, is a PhD candidate in the Birdbrain lab of Donna Maney who is senior author of the paper and an Emory professor of psychology.


First-year students' stories of a pandemic: Study seeks data to help them flourish

The data gathered from student stories "may help us to create interventions to support students who may be struggling as they navigate disruptive and stressful events," says Emory psychologist Robyn Fivush.


Behavioral studies in era of COVID-19 raise new concerns about diversity

"The digital divide is undoubtedly going to get worse during this pandemic," says Emory psychologist Stella F. Lourenco. "This is a huge problem for ensuring equal access to education and to work, not just for ensuring diversity in scientific research." 


Dr. Lilienfeld in Archives of Scientific Psychology - 'Embracing unpopular ideas: Introduction to the special section on heterodox issues in psychology'

This Special Section of Archives of Scientific Psychology features 16 articles, each of which challenges 1 or more widely accepted assumptions in psychology.


Dr. Fivush, Director of the Family Narratives Lab on 'How Family Stories Help Children Weather Hard Times'

Stories of family members — who persevered by simply putting one foot in front of the other and by maintaining loving bonds — reassure children that their family will also find a way to get through a situation, says Emory psychologist Robyn Fivush. Over decades of research, Fivush and Emory psychologist Marshall Duke developed a scale to measure how much children know about their family histories. 


Dr. Gregory Berns discusses Decoding the Canine Mind in Cerebrum's Spring 2020 Issue Dedicated to the Renaissance in Canine Cognitive Science

Gregory Berns, Distinguished Professor of Neuroeconomics at Emory University and co-founder of Dog Star Technologies—a company using neuroscience to enhance the dog-human partnership—has put more than 100 dogs through a brain scanner. His article addresses a dog’s perception of the world, social cognition findings, canine mental health, and more. 


2019

What is a scream? The acoustics of a primal human call: Researchers hone in on what makes screams distinctive

Screams are prompted by a variety of emotions -- from joyful surprise to abject terror. No matter what sparks them, however, human screams share distinctive acoustic parameters that listeners are attuned to, suggests a new study published by Emory psychology bioacoustics researchers, Jay W. Schwartz, Jonathan W. M. Engelberg, and Harold Gouzoules, in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior. (ScienceDaily)

See also: What is a scream? Emory psychologists explore acoustics of a primal human call (Carol Clark, eScienceCommons)

Emory Psychologist, Scott Lilienfeld, Examines Whether "Intellectual Humility" Can Temper Political, Religious Polarization

With support from a Templeton Foundation grant, Emory psychologist, Scott O. Lilienfeld, will study whether the ability to recognize that you might be wrong can be a buffer against political and religious extremism.

I Scream. You Scream. Why Do We All Scream? Harold Gouzoules on the Science Friday Degrees of Change Podcast Series

Emory psychologist Harold Gouzoules and his team measured the acoustic properties of a human scream by actually playing screams for people: Screams of frightscreams of excitement, and even a whistle. He joins Ira Flatow to talk about the evolutionary basis of screaming and what it can tell us about how human nonverbal communication.

Frans de Waal Embraces Animal Emotions in ‘Mama’s Last Hug’

For too long, emotion has been cognitive researchers’ third rail. But nothing could be more essential to understanding how people and animals behave. By examining emotions in both, this book puts these most vivid of mental experiences in evolutionary context, revealing how their richness, power and utility stretch across species and back into deep time.

2018

Yelling, Cursing Less Likely to Break Out in Operating Rooms When Female Surgeons are Present

Dr. Frans de Waal, Laura Jones, and colleagues have developed a classification system to describe different kinds of operating room behaviors, ranging from cooperative to confrontational, in order to study conflict in operating rooms.

Twitter Used as Research Tool for America's Psyche

Emory researchers, Phillip Wolff, associate professor of psychology at Emory, and Robert Thorstad, Ph.D. candidate in psychology in the Laney Graduate School, were interviewed about a new study they co-authored on mining data from tweets to gain insights on human behavior.

New Research Aims to Understand How Genetic Differences Contribute to Addiction

Psychology professor, Rohan Palmer, has earned a $2.34 million grant to examine why some people become addicted to alcohol or drugs while others don’t.

2017

Why Kids Need to Know Their Family History

Marshall Duke and Robyn Fivush, psychologists at Emory University, created a "Do You Know" test to measure the impact of shared autobiographical memories in children.

The Ten Best Science Books of 2017

Dr. Gregory Berns's new book, “What It’s Like to Be a Dog,” has been named as one of Smithsonian's Ten Best Science Books of 2017.

Goldwater Rule 'Gagging' Psychiatrists No Longer Relevant, Analysis Finds

The rationale for the Goldwater Rule — which prohibits psychiatrists from publicly commenting on the mental health of public figures they have not examined in person — does not hold up to current scientific scrutiny, a new analysis finds. Scott Lilienfeld, Ph.D.

Are Psychopathy and Heroism Two Sides of the Same Coin?

A new study looking at first responders yields some interesting results. Scott Lilienfeld, Ph.D.

Scientists Are Learning to Predict Psychosis Years in Advance - And Possibly Prevent It
Elaine Walker, Ph.D.

Gregory Berns Knows What Your Dog Is Thinking (It’s Sweet)

Dr. Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist at Emory University in Atlanta, spends his days scanning the brains of dogs, trying to figure out what they’re thinking. The research is detailed in a new book, “What It’s Like to Be a Dog.”

Neuroscientist tries to get into dogs' minds to see how they think

Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist at Emory University, tells "GMA" about his experience working with nearly 100 dogs to find out if they really are man's best friend for his new book, "What It's Like to Be a Dog."

What Does Your Dog Really Want?

With MRI, scientists are beginning to answer that question in a much more sophisticated way.Greg Berns, Ph.D.

A Disarming Comedian Interviews an Emory Psychologist Loaded with Facts About the Brain

Comedian, Jordan Klepper, takes a break from filming in the Emory psychology department by interviewing Emory psychologist, Stephan Hamann, about the brain science involved in trying to understand the U.S. political divide and culture wars.

The Neuroscience of Learning Across Borders

The 2017 Emory-UNAM Foro Binacional Mecanismos de Aprendizaje was held at the Instituto de Neurobiología in Qeurétaro, México, which is part of the Universidad Nacional Autónomo de México. This year’s forum brought together 33 Mexican and US graduate student participants, 9 Mexican and US invited faculty member participants, and many other local participants and observers.

Betsy DeVos Invests in a Therapy Under Scrutiny

A group of brain performance centers backed by Betsy DeVos, the nominee for education secretary, promotes results that are nothing short of stunning. But a review of Neurocore’s claims and interviews with medical experts suggest its conclusions are unproven and its methods questionable. Scott Lilienfeld, Ph.D.

Chimpanzees Are Forcing Us to Redefine What it Means to be Human

Primatologist Frans de Waal says chimpanzees can do almost everything that was once considered a distinctively human trait. Frans de Waal, Ph.D.

How Scientists Reconstructed the Brain of a Long-Extinct Beast

Though the thylacine has been extinct now for 80 years, that hasn’t stopped enthusiasts from searching; Ted Turner once offered a $100,000 reward for any proof of a living thylacine. But even if humans will never see another living thylacine, that doesn’t mean we can’t get into their heads. Thanks to the continued fascination with these creatures and new techniques in brain imaging, Greg Berns has now reconstructed how this animal likely thought. Greg Berns, Ph.D.

Michael Treadway

Michael Treadway, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychology, has been selected to receive the 2019 APS Janet Taylor Spence Award. Named for APS’s first elected President, the Spence Award recognizes early-career researchers who have made transformative contributions to the field of psychological science, such as establishing new paradigms within a subject area or advancing research that cuts across fields of study. The 2019 Spence Award recipients will be profiled in an upcoming issue of the APS Observer and will be recognized at the 31st APS Annual Convention in Washington, DC, May 23–26, 2019.

Scott Lilienfeld

Scott Lilienfeld, PhD, has been selected to receive the 2019 Robert D. Hare Lifetime Achievement Award for the Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy (SSSP). The committee made this recommendation in recognition of his pioneering contributions to the scientific understanding of psychopathy across the lifespan involving the development of innovative conceptual models, as well as important empirical advances that have had an important and lasting impact in how the construct of psychopathy is conceptualized and measured; for his development of innovative methods for assessing psychopathic traits that can be used in both criminal and non-criminal samples;  and for his tireless work in promoting a rigorous and critical scientific approach to advancing psychology in general and research on psychopathy in particular.

Elaine Walker

Elaine F. Walker, PhD, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, has been named a 2018 Fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Dr. Walker is recognized for pioneering research on the nature and interaction among neurodevelopmental, genetic, stress and hormonal precursors of major mental disorders, especially schizophrenia. Election as a AAAS Fellow is an honor bestowed on AAAS members by their peers. These scientists have been awarded the distinction of Fellow because of their efforts toward advancing science applications that are deemed scientifically or socially distinguished.

Patricia Brennan

Patricia Brennan, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, has been awarded a Distinguished Investigator Grant from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. Grants are awarded to full professors or the equivalent, conducting innovative projects in diverse areas of neurobiological and behavioral research. Recipients of the $100,000, one-year grants are seeking new potential targets for understanding and treating a wide range of neuropsychiatric disorders that affect one in five people, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, schizophrenia, and psychosis. Dr. Brennan's proposal, Out of the Mouths of Babes: Revealing Transgenerational Impacts of Maternal Depression Using New Tooth Microassay Techniques, examines markers of stress and depression during gestation in children who are the offspring of mothers with depression.

Michael Treadway

Michael Treadway, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychology, has been selected as a Rising Star in the Association for Psychological Science. The Rising Star designation recognizes outstanding psychological scientists in the earliest stages of their research career post-PhD whose innovative work has already advanced the field and signals great potential for their continued contributions. The complete list of 2016 Rising Stars will appear in the February issue of the Observer.

Marshall Duke in hat

Marshall Duke, Ph.D., Charles Howard Candler Professor of Psychology, has been awarded the Crystal Apple for Excellence in Undergraduate Seminar Education. The Crystal Apple Awards honor faculty members who go above and beyond in their search for knowledge and involvement in the Emory community. Each year, students are asked to nominate their professors based on select criteria.

Robert Hampton

Robert Hampton, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology, has received a Fulbright-García Robles Fellowship to fund a year-long sabbatical in Querétaro, Mexico, where he will collaborate with Dr. Hugo Merchant and his colleagues and students at the Instituto de Neurobiología. Drs. Hampton and Merchant will co-teach a year-long course that combines academic content in primate cognitive neuroscience with a set of activities designed to advance the careers of graduate students and promote international collaboration between US and Mexican scientists. Drs. Hampton and Merchant will also study the neurocognitive processes involved in the mental representation of ordered information, and develop methods for the assessment of emotional states in nonhuman animals using tests of time perception.

Viviane Valdes, a graduate student in the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program at Emory, has been named as one of the Distinguished Contributors for the Society for a Science of Clinical Psychology (SSCP) 2020 Student Poster Competition. Her poster title was: "Maternal Perceived Stress, Parental Education, and Child Stimulation Are Associated with Infant Development at 3 Months in Rural Guatemala". 

Melissa Engel, a first year doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at Emory University, has won two poster awards at the (virtual) Society of Pediatric Psychology conference held in March 2020. Her poster, 'Anxiety and Depressive Symptoms in Adolescents and Young Adults with Epilepsy: The Role of Illness Beliefs and Social Factors', was selected from a few hundred posters to win an overall student poster award, and an Epilepsy Special Interest Group award. 

Brooke McKenna, a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at Emory University, has been awarded the 2018-2019 Charles and Marjorie Dobrovolny Award from the Emory Laney Graduate School. The award is available every year to an outstanding student in the graduate program for exceptional research accomplishments in the area of “intellectual and developmental disabilities.” 

Amanda Arulpragasam, a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at Emory University, has been awarded the “Stuart Zola Graduate Fellowship in Neuroscience” for 2019-2020.

Brooke McKenna, doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at Emory University, was selected as one of three winners of the 2019 SSCP Student Poster Competition.

Study Gives New Insight Into How the Brain Perceives Places
Nearly 30 years ago, scientists demonstrated that visually recognizing an object, such as a cup, and performing a visually guided action, such as picking the cup up, involved distinct neural processes, located in different areas of the brain. A new study shows that the same is true for how the brain perceives our environment — it has two distinct systems, one for recognizing a place and another for navigating through it.

Schadenfreude Sheds Light on the Darker Side of Humanity
This common, yet poorly understood, emotion may provide a valuable window into the darker side of humanity, finds a review article by psychologists at Emory University.

Aversion to Holes Driven by Disgust, Not Fear, Study Finds
Trypophobia, commonly known as “fear of holes,” is linked to a physiological response more associated with disgust than fear, finds a new study published in PeerJ.

New Autisum Study Changes The Game For Treatment In Toddlers
“It’s not that they’re averse to eye contact,” said Emory Psychology graduate student Jennifer Moriuchi, a member of the research team.  Instead, she said, “they aren’t understanding that social meaning of eye contact.”

Kelly McCormick, doctoral candidate in cognitive psychology and neurology at Emory University, was interviewed about research showing that people often associate words with different shapes, regardless of what language they speak.

The International Academy of Suicide Research (IASR) and JKBF presented the first James Kirk Bernard Foundation Award for Excellence in the Biological Exploration of Suicide to Arthur Ryan, Ph.D.
Selected by an IASR committee as a finalist in a pool of early career researchers presenting innovative biological studies, Dr. Ryan was chosen by JKBF for his work investigating fatty acid profiles associated with suicide.

American Academy of Arts and Sciences Elects Three UC San Diego Professors
John Wixted will join 200 new members in the organization’s 2019 class that spans academia, business, government and public affairs.

At Small Colleges, Smaller Departments
Faculty members at tiny institutions might appear to be lonely, but they collaborate across disciplines and geographic expanses to avoid being isolated.

Direct Amygdala Stimulation Can Enhance Human Memory
Direct electrical stimulation of the human amygdala, a region of the brain known to regulate memory and emotional behaviors, can enhance next-day recognition of images when applied immediately after the images are viewed, neuroscientists have found.

From Rats To Humans, A Brain Knows When It Can't Remember
The human brain knows what it knows. And so, it appears, does a rat brain. Rats have shown that they have the ability to monitor the strength of their own memories, researchers from Providence College reported this month in the journal Animal Cognition.

Anjana Muralidharan is a recent recipient of a VA Rehabilitation Research and Development Career Development Award. This award is the VA equivalent of an NIH K Award, and will provide five years of salary support and research funds. The focus of her CDA is older adults with serious mental illness - an underserved group with complex care needs. With this award, Anjana aims to launch a research career devoted to promoting recovery and wellness at the intersection of mental illness and aging.

Chimpanzees Choose Cooperation Over Competition
When given a choice between cooperating or competing, chimpanzees choose to cooperate five times more frequently, Yerkes National Primate Research Center researchers have found. Malini Suchak, Assistant Professor of Animal Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY