Inside Your Head

Kevin Lewis

February 18, 2024

Developmental changes in brain function linked with addiction-like social media use two years later
Jessica Flannery et al.
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, February 2024 


Addiction-like social media use (ASMU) is widely reported among adolescents and is associated with depression and other negative health outcomes. We aimed to identify developmental trajectories of neural social feedback processing that are linked to higher levels of ASMU in later adolescence. Within a longitudinal design, 103 adolescents completed a social incentive delay task during 1–3 fMRI scans (6–9th grade), and a 4th self-report assessment of ASMU and depressive symptoms ∼2 years later (10–11th grade). We assessed ASMU effects on brain responsivity to positive social feedback across puberty and relationships between brain responsivity development, ASMU symptoms, and depressive symptoms while considering gender effects. Findings demonstrate decreasing responsivity, across puberty, in the ventral media prefrontal cortex, medial prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, and right inferior frontal gyrus associated with higher ASMU symptoms over 2 years later. Significant moderated mediation models suggest that these pubertal decreases in brain responsivity are associated with increased ASMU symptoms which, among adolescent girls (but not boys), is in turn associated with increased depressive symptoms. Results suggest initial hyperresponsivity to positive social feedback, before puberty onset, and decreases in this response across development, may be risk factors for ASMU in later adolescence.

Social Isolation in America? A 20-Year Snapshot
Adam Roth
Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World, February 2024


This visualization provides a snapshot of social isolation in America over a 20-year period. The author leverages data from the American Time Use Survey to estimate the percentage of Americans who report a complete lack of social contact during a single day. Contrary to prior claims, there was no clear evidence of increasing isolation during the 2000s and 2010s. There was, however, a marked increase in the percentage of Americans who were socially isolated during the coronavirus pandemic. Adopting a micro view of social isolation contributes to contemporary debates by highlighting social interactions rather than broad assessments of social integration such as social relationships or group participation. Although these latter concepts are important in their own ways, focusing on social interactions speaks to issues that are often considered synonymous with social integration such as the exchange of support, resources, and feelings of belongingness.

Genetic influences on depression and selection into adverse life experiences
Tamkinat Rauf & Jeremy Freese
Social Science & Medicine, March 2024 


Genome-wide association studies find that a large number of genetic variants jointly influence the risk of depression, which is summarized by polygenic indices (PGIs) of depressive symptoms and major depression. But PGIs by design remain agnostic about the causal mechanisms linking genes to depression. Meanwhile, the role of adverse life experiences in shaping depression risk is well-documented, including via gene-environment correlation. Building on theoretical work on dynamic and contingent genetic selection, we suggest that genetic influences may lead to differential selection into negative life experiences, forging gene-environment correlations that manifest in various permutations of depressive behaviors and environmental adversities. We also examine the extent to which apparent genetic influences may reflect spurious associations due to factors such as indirect genetic effects. Using data from two large surveys of middle-aged and older US adults, we investigate to what extent a PGI of depression predicts the risk of 27 different adversities. Further, to glean insights about the kinds of processes that might lead to gene-environment correlation, we augment these analyses with data from an original preregistered survey to measure cultural understandings of the behavioral dependence of various adversities. We find that the PGI predicts the risk of majority of adversities, net of class background and prior depression, and that the selection risk is greater for adversities typically perceived as being dependent on peoples’ own behaviors. Taken together, our findings suggest that the PGI of depression largely picks up the risk of behaviorally-influenced adversities, but to a lesser degree also captures other environmental influences. The results invite further exploration into the behavioral and interactional processes that lie along the pathways intervening between genetic differences and wellbeing.

Mindfulness disposition as a protective factor against stress in Antarctica: A potential countermeasure for long-duration spaceflight?
Francesco Pagnini et al.
Journal of Environmental Psychology, March 2024 

Methods: Twenty-four crew members from two Antarctic expeditions at the Concordia base were repeatedly assessed over the course of a 12-month mission for stress (Perceived Stress Scale) and mindfulness, using multiple assessment measures, including the Mindful Attention and Awareness Scale (MAAS), the Langer Mindfulness Scale (LMS), the Breath Counting Task, and the Triangle Task.

Results: Results indicate a strong negative association over time between mindfulness and stress, particularly when measured with the MAAS and the LMS. Higher MAAS baseline values were also good predictors of lower stress patterns during the mission.

Surprisingly good talk: Misunderstanding others creates a barrier to constructive confrontation
James Dungan & Nicholas Epley
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming 


Open communication is important for maintaining relationships when conflicts inevitably arise. Nevertheless, people may avoid constructive confrontation to the extent that they expect others to respond negatively. In experiments involving recalled (Experiment 1), imagined (Experiment 2), simulated (Experiment 3), and actual confrontations (Experiments 4a and 4b), we find that people’s expectations are systematically miscalibrated such that they overestimate how negatively others respond to confrontation. These overly negative expectations stem, at least in part, from biased attention to potentially negative outcomes of a constructive confrontation (Experiment 5), and from failing to recognize the power of relationship-maintenance processes that are activated in direct conversations (Experiment 6). Underestimating how positively relationship partners will respond to an open, direct, and honest conversation about relationship concerns may create a misplaced barrier to confronting issues when they arise in relationships, thereby keeping people from confronting issues that would strengthen their relationships.

COVID-19 Increased Mortality Salience, Collectivism, and Subsistence Activities: A Theory-Driven Analysis of Online Adaptation in the United States, Indonesia, Mexico, and Japan
Noah Evers et al.
Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, forthcoming 


How does a life-threatening pandemic affect a culture? The Theory of Social Change, Cultural Evolution, and Human Development predicts that danger, as indicated by rising death rates and narrowing social worlds, shifts human psychology and behavior toward that found in small-scale, collectivistic, and rural subsistence ecologies. In particular, mortality salience, collectivism, and engagement in subsistence activities should increase as death rates rise and the social world retracts. Studies on the psychological response to the pandemic in the United States confirmed these predicted increases. The present study sought to generalize these previous findings by comparing the frequency of conceptually relevant linguistic terms used in Google searches and Twitter posts in the United States, Japan, Indonesia, and Mexico for 30 days before the coronavirus pandemic began in each country with frequencies of the same terms for 30 days after. Generally, we found that mortality salience increased to the extent that countries experienced excess COVID mortality; collectivism increased to the extent that countries experienced excess COVID mortality and increased mortality salience; and subsistence activities increased to the extent that countries experienced excess COVID mortality and/or stay-at-home-policies. Almost all these increases went beyond the general increase in internet use, which was a control variable in all analyses. These findings support a growing body of research documenting a human response to ecological danger.


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