Monthly Archives: October 2011

Fun-sized Halloween treats are actually a trick

Heather Rudow October 31, 2011

(Photo:Flickr/Juushika Redgrave)

Along with the spooky, supernatural forces at play on Halloween, a University of Alberta researcher discovered that some tricks are also being played with certain common, festive treats.

A study found that when products such as chocolate and other candy are individually wrapped, people tend to eat more of them than when the treats are in regular packaging. Study researcher Jennifer Argo also discovered that those with low-appearance self-esteem—the term researchers use to describe people who are concerned about their body, weight or physical appearance—tend to consume more than the average population, under the veneer of health.

“The low-appearance self-esteem people ate the most when they were told that the caloric information was favorable (low in calories), when the caloric information was on the front of the package and when the product was visible (clear packaging),” she said. “People in the high-appearance self-esteem category—those who did not indicate concerns about weight or physical appearance—still ate more, but there was a big jump in the consumption quantity for [those with low self-esteem].”

The participants with low-appearance self-esteem tended to eat less when the product wasn’t visible, when the caloric information was missing or when they believed there were more calories in the small packages than what they expected.

Argon said strategies such as a having visible product and caloric information served as cues to the group’s susceptibility, noting that this gave the group a false sense of belief that the package would help them manage self-control and help them achieve potential weight and body goals.

“These consumers are basically saying, ‘this package is going to protect me; it’s going to help me achieve my goal,’ and so they relinquish control to the package,” she said. “They throw up their hands and say, ‘I don’t have to worry because the package is taking care of everything for me.’ As soon as they’ve given up initial control, they have no control to deal with that next package that’s presented to them.”

Argo recommends buying the regular-sized packages of these types of snacks and exercising portion control as a way to save calories and money.

“[Relinquishing control to small packages is] a very cognitive process; people are purposefully doing this,” she said. “[In the study] we found that if we interrupt the participants, if we distracted them with a task, they don’t fall prey (to overeating). When it’s a small package, distractions are actually beneficial in some respects.”

Source: University of Alberta

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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Report finds parent behavior training can ease ADHD symptoms in young children

Heather Rudow

(Photo:Flickr/Ha-Wee)

Recent guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics suggest that some children as young as 4 could benefit from being prescribed medications such as Ritalin and Concerta for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, a new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) says that formal training in parenting strategies can also have a positive effect on children of the same age.

The researchers found that formal parenting interventions — also known as parent behavior training or PBT — serve as low-risk, effective methods for improving behavior in preschool-age children who are of at risk for developing ADHD. One substantial barrier to PBT’s success, however, is when parents drop out of the training programs.

The report also found that drugs such as Ritalin and Strattera are generally safe and effective for treating ADHD symptoms and improving behavior in children older than 6.

“ADHD can place many challenges on families with young and school-age children,” said AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy. “This new report and these summary publications will help children, parents and their doctors work together to find the best treatment option based on the family’s values, preferences and needs.”

Source: AHRQ

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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Both negatives, positives can be drawn from belief in God

Heather Rudow

(Photo:Flickr/fradaveccs)

A new study regarding belief in a higher power found that being reminded of God can lead people to have difficulty taking the steps needed to better themselves. But at the same time, their ability to resist temptation and avoid falling into bad habits was stronger.

“More than 90 percent of people in the world agree that God or a similar spiritual power exists or may exist,” said lead author Kristin Laurin. “This is the first empirical evidence that simple reminders of God can diminish some types of self-regulation, such as pursuing one’s goals, yet can improve others, such as resisting temptation.”

Researchers had 353 college students with varying degrees of belief in God participate in six different experiments to see whether belief in a higher power indirectly influenced people’s motivations.

They were asked to form grammatically correct sentences using groups of words that were either God-related (such as “divine,” “sacred,” etc.) or that were neutral. The participants then had to form as many as they could in five minutes from a specific combination of specific letters. The researchers tracked the students’ motivation levels by the number of words they produced. The students were told that a good performance could help predict if they would succeed in an engineering career.

Also, weeks before the experiments began, the students were asked whether they believed forces beyond their control had an influence on their career:

“Among participants who said outside factors such as God might influence their career success, those who did the God-related word task performed worse than those who used neutral words. There was no difference in performance among the participants who did not believe outside factors influenced their career success. Researchers also measured the importance participants placed on a number of values, including achievement. Participants reminded of God placed the same value on achievement as did participants primed with the more neutral words.” 

“This suggests that our findings did not emerge because the participants reminded of God devalued achievement,” said Laurin.

The next set of experiments focused on the students’ ability to resist temptation after being reminded about the presence of a higher power:

“In one study, participants who said eating healthy food was important to them ate fewer cookies after reading a short passage about God than those who read a passage unrelated to God. Participants who read a short God-related passage reported greater willingness to resist temptations to achieve a major goal, such as maintaining a healthy weight, finding a long-term relationship or having a successful career. This effect was found only among participants who had previously said they believe an omniscient entity watches over them and notices when they misbehave.”

Source: American Psychological Association

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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Friendships can serve as a buffer to stress for excluded children

Heather Rudow October 28, 2011

(Photo:Flickr/lindz graham)

Fitting in and feeling accepted is difficult at any age, but a Netherlands study recently found that among children, having friends around can significantly reduce the stress they feel from peer rejection.

Researchers surveyed 100 Dutch fourth graders to see whether being victimized or excluded by their peers impacted the release of the hormone cortisol (a physiological byproduct of stress) in their bodies and if having friends lessened its presence in the participants.

The researchers asked the children to choose which peers were bullied or excluded the most, as well as how many friends they felt they in particular had in their classes. Researchers also spoke with the parents of the children regarding behavior problems.

Over the course of two days, the researchers measured the children’s cortisol levels by collecting their saliva at five different points and found that the children who were excluded by their classmates had elevated levels of cortisol at school. Those children also had  showed a smaller decline in cortisol over the course of the day:

“Both of these findings may indicate that exclusion is stressful. This was even more pronounced for excluded kids who had few friends or had friendships that were characterized as low in quality. Surprisingly, victimization by classmates wasn’t associated with increased cortisol levels, suggesting that victimization is not as stressful as exclusion.”

“Together, the results demonstrate that although friends cannot completely eliminate the stress of exclusion at school, they do reduce it,” said researcher Marianne Riksen-Walraven. “And the number and quality of children’s friendships can serve as a buffer against being rejected.”

Source: PsychCentral

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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Could good luck charms impact the World Series?

Heather Rudow

(Photo:Wikimedia Commons)

After the St. Louis Cardinals’ stunning win last night in the bottom of the 11th inning, their showdown with the Texas Rangers has been pushed to a seventh game. Sports fans are praising the team’s athletic prowess and teamwork, but could there be something a little more superstitious at work?

From basketball legend Michael Jordan to Texas Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson, athletes from a variety of sports have also on good luck charms and rituals to help them play their best during a game, CNN reports.

“For athletes, there’s this unpredictability in sports,” said Gregg Steinberg, author of Full Throttle and professor of human performance at Austin Peay State University. “They never know how they’re going to play, how the other team is going to play, so when you do something that’s superstitious, like wearing a trinket, it gives you a greater sense of control.”

Read the rest of the article here

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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