Kevin Lewis

November 12, 2017

The Narcissism Epidemic Is Dead; Long Live the Narcissism Epidemic
Eunike Wetzel et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming


Are recent cohorts of college students more narcissistic than their predecessors? To address debates about the so-called “narcissism epidemic,” we used data from three cohorts of students (1990s: N = 1,166; 2000s: N = 33,647; 2010s: N = 25,412) to test whether narcissism levels (overall and specific facets) have increased across generations. We also tested whether our measure, the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI), showed measurement equivalence across the three cohorts, a critical analysis that had been overlooked in prior research. We found that several NPI items were not equivalent across cohorts. Models accounting for nonequivalence of these items indicated a small decline in overall narcissism levels from the 1990s to the 2010s (d = −0.27). At the facet level, leadership (d = −0.20), vanity (d = −0.16), and entitlement (d = −0.28) all showed decreases. Our results contradict the claim that recent cohorts of college students are more narcissistic than earlier generations of college students.

Does Cyberbullying Impact Youth Suicidal Behaviors?
Dimitrios Nikolaou
Journal of Health Economics, December 2017, Pages 30-46


Even though several youth fatal suicides have been linked with school victimization, there is lack of evidence on whether cyberbullying victimization causes students to adopt suicidal behaviors. To investigate this issue, I use exogenous state-year variation in cyberbullying laws and information on high school students from the Youth Risk Behavioral Survey within a bivariate probit framework, and complement these estimates with matching techniques. I find that cyberbullying has a strong impact on all suicidal behaviors: it increases suicidal thoughts by 14.5 percentage points and suicide attempts by 8.7 percentage points. Even if the focus is on statewide fatal suicide rates, cyberbullying still leads to significant increases in suicide mortality, with these effects being stronger for men than for women. Since cyberbullying laws have an effect on limiting cyberbullying, investing in cyberbullying–preventing strategies can improve individual health by decreasing suicide attempts, and increase the aggregate health stock by decreasing suicide rates.

Being present: Focusing on the present predicts improvements in life satisfaction but not happiness
Peter Felsman et al.
Emotion, October 2017, Pages 1047-1051


Mindfulness theorists suggest that people spend most of their time focusing on the past or future rather than the present. Despite the prevalence of this assumption, no research that we are aware of has evaluated whether it is true or what the implications of focusing on the present are for subjective well-being. We addressed this issue by using experience sampling to examine how frequently people focus on the present throughout the day over the course of a week and whether focusing on the present predicts improvements in the 2 components of subjective well-being over time — how people feel and how satisfied they are with their lives. Results indicated that participants were present-focused the majority of the time (66%). Moreover, focusing on the present predicted improvements in life satisfaction (but not happiness) over time by reducing negative rumination. These findings advance our understanding of how temporal orientation and well-being relate.

Subjective Socioeconomic Status Matters Less When Perceived Social Support Is High: A Study of Cortisol Responses to Stress
Emily Hooker et al.
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming


Low objective and subjective socioeconomic status (SES) is associated with the experience of frequent stressors known to have physiological costs. We tested whether perceived social support, a key health-protective resource, buffered the association between lower subjective SES and cortisol responses to an acute stressor. Participants (N = 115; 54.78% female; age M = 19.56) reported subjective SES and perceived support, completed a social-evaluative stressor task, and provided saliva for cortisol assessment. There was a significant interaction of subjective SES with support predicting linear change in cortisol stress responses, γ = .08, z = 2.34, p = .02. When support was low, subjective SES was strongly related to cortisol, and those who reported lower subjective SES exhibited higher cortisol during recovery than those who reported higher subjective SES. When support was high, those who reported higher and lower subjective SES exhibited similar cortisol responses. These results highlight the important protective role that supportive relationships can have when subjective SES is low.

High intelligence: A risk factor for psychological and physiological overexcitabilities
Ruth Karpinski et al.
Intelligence, forthcoming


High intelligence is touted as being predictive of positive outcomes including educational success and income level. However, little is known about the difficulties experienced among this population. Specifically, those with a high intellectual capacity (hyper brain) possess overexcitabilities in various domains that may predispose them to certain psychological disorders as well as physiological conditions involving elevated sensory, and altered immune and inflammatory responses (hyper body). The present study surveyed members of American Mensa, Ltd. (n = 3715) in order to explore psychoneuroimmunological (PNI) processes among those at or above the 98th percentile of intelligence. Participants were asked to self-report prevalence of both diagnosed and/or suspected mood and anxiety disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and physiological diseases that include environmental and food allergies, asthma, and autoimmune disease. High statistical significance and a remarkably high relative risk ratio of diagnoses for all examined conditions were confirmed among the Mensa group 2015 data when compared to the national average statistics. This implicates high IQ as being a potential risk factor for affective disorders, ADHD, ASD, and for increased incidence of disease related to immune dysregulation. Preliminary findings strongly support a hyper brain/hyper body association which may have substantial individual and societal implications and warrants further investigation to best identify and serve this at-risk population.

Blocking nocturnal blue light for insomnia: A randomized controlled trial
Ari Shechter et al.
Journal of Psychiatric Research, January 2018, Pages 196-202


The use of light-emitting electronic devices before bedtime may contribute to or exacerbate sleep problems. Exposure to blue-wavelength light in particular from these devices may affect sleep by suppressing melatonin and causing neurophysiologic arousal. We aimed to determine if wearing amber-tinted blue light-blocking lenses before bedtime improves sleep in individuals with insomnia. Fourteen individuals (n = 8 females; age ± SD 46.6 ± 11.5 y) with insomnia symptoms wore blue light-blocking amber lenses or clear placebo lenses in lightweight wraparound frames for 2 h immediately preceding bedtime for 7 consecutive nights in a randomized crossover trial (4-wk washout). Ambulatory sleep measures included the Pittsburgh Insomnia Rating Scale (PIRS) completed at the end of each intervention period, and daily post-sleep questionnaire and wrist-actigraphy. PIRS total scores, and Quality of Life, Distress, and Sleep Parameter subscales, were improved in amber vs. clear lenses condition (p-values <0.05). Reported wake-time was significantly delayed, and mean subjective total sleep time (TST), overall quality, and soundness of sleep were significantly higher (p-values <0.05) in amber vs. clear lenses condition over the 7-d intervention period. Actigraphic measures of TST only were significantly higher in amber vs. clear lenses condition (p = 0.035). Wearing amber vs. clear lenses for 2-h preceding bedtime for 1 week improved sleep in individuals with insomnia symptoms. These findings have health relevance given the broad use of light-emitting devices before bedtime and prevalence of insomnia. Amber lenses represent a safe, affordable, and easily implemented therapeutic intervention for insomnia symptoms.

Blue lighting accelerates post-stress relaxation: Results of a preliminary study
Jesus Minguillon et al.
PLoS ONE, October 2017


Several authors have studied the influence of light on both human physiology and emotions. Blue light has been proved to reduce sleepiness by suppression of melatonin secretion and it is also present in many emotion-related studies. Most of these have a common lack of objective methodology since results and conclusions are based on subjective perception of emotions. The aim of this work was the objective assessment of the effect of blue lighting in post-stress relaxation, in comparison with white lighting, by means of bio-signals and standardized procedures. We conducted a study in which twelve healthy volunteers were stressed and then performed a relaxation session within a chromotherapy room with blue (test group) or white (control group) lighting. We conclude that the blue lighting accelerates the relaxation process after stress in comparison with conventional white lighting. The relaxation time decreased by approximately three-fold (1.1 vs. 3.5 minutes). We also observed a convergence time (3.5–5 minutes) after which the advantage of blue lighting disappeared. This supports the relationship between color of light and stress, and the observations reported in previous works. These findings could be useful in clinical and educational environments, as well as in daily-life context and emerging technologies such as neuromarketing. However, our study must be extended to draw reliable conclusions and solid scientific evidence.

The Association Between PTSD and Functional Outcome Is Mediated by Perception of Cognitive Problems Rather Than Objective Neurological Test Performance
Kristin Samuelson et al.
Journal of Traumatic Stress, October 2017, Pages 521–530


Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been consistently linked to poorer functional outcomes, including quality of life, health problems, and social and occupational functioning. Less is known about the potential mechanisms by which PTSD leads to poorer functional outcomes. We hypothesized that neurocognitive functioning and perception of cognitive problems would both mediate the relationship between PTSD diagnosis and functioning. In a sample of 140 veterans of the recent wars and conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, we assessed PTSD symptoms, history of traumatic brain injury (TBI), depression, self-report measures of quality of life, social and occupational functioning, and reintegration to civilian life, as well as perception of cognitive problems. Veterans also completed a comprehensive neuropsychological battery of tests. Structural equation modeling revealed that perception of cognitive problems, but not objective neuropsychological performance, mediated the relationship between PTSD diagnosis and functional outcomes after controlling for TBI, depression, education, and a premorbid IQ estimate, b = −6.29, 95% bias-corrected bootstrapped confidence interval [−11.03, −2.88], showing a large effect size. These results highlight the importance of addressing appraisals of posttrauma cognitive functioning in treatment as a means of improving functional outcomes.

Stress attenuates the flexible updating of aversive value
Candace Raio et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 17 October 2017, Pages 11241–11246


In a dynamic environment, sources of threat or safety can unexpectedly change, requiring the flexible updating of stimulus−outcome associations that promote adaptive behavior. However, aversive contexts in which we are required to update predictions of threat are often marked by stress. Acute stress is thought to reduce behavioral flexibility, yet its influence on the modulation of aversive value has not been well characterized. Given that stress exposure is a prominent risk factor for anxiety and trauma-related disorders marked by persistent, inflexible responses to threat, here we examined how acute stress affects the flexible updating of threat responses. Participants completed an aversive learning task, in which one stimulus was probabilistically associated with an electric shock, while the other stimulus signaled safety. A day later, participants underwent an acute stress or control manipulation before completing a reversal learning task during which the original stimulus−outcome contingencies switched. Skin conductance and neuroendocrine responses provided indices of sympathetic arousal and stress responses, respectively. Despite equivalent initial learning, stressed participants showed marked impairments in reversal learning relative to controls. Additionally, reversal learning deficits across participants were related to heightened levels of alpha-amylase, a marker of noradrenergic activity. Finally, fitting arousal data to a computational reinforcement learning model revealed that stress-induced reversal learning deficits emerged from stress-specific changes in the weight assigned to prediction error signals, disrupting the adaptive adjustment of learning rates. Our findings provide insight into how stress renders individuals less sensitive to changes in aversive reinforcement and have implications for understanding clinical conditions marked by stress-related psychopathology.


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