An analysis of psychological journal articles

Psychological Journal Research and Summarization

Three psychological journals were read to acquire the learning experience equivalent to participating in 6 credits of research participation. Answering three prevalent questions will summarize each one. What is the main question in each article? How does the author address the question? What did they find? The three articles selected come from the approved list of journals: the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, Developmental Psychology, and the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

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The Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience published an article called The Association between Gray Matter Volume and Reading Profiencieny: A Longitudinal Study of Beginning Reader (Linkersdorfer). In this article, the experimenters wondered if the volume of gray matter and it’s development correlated with reading proficiency of beginning readers. It was known that there are no genetically predisposed systems of reading and that the brain regions, usually associated with other purposes, are actually used or in a sense “borrowing” for reading purposes as well. One common developmental hypothesis is that at the beginning of reading instruction, children use their temporoparietal system to decode words letter-by-letter or syllable by syllable, at first. With practice the temporoparietal and the occipitotemporal system is increasingly incorporated to result in fluent reading. In order to tackle the question, experimenters examined the gray matter associated with written language and its changes in elementary students during their first two years of reading instruction. They collected data by having the children perform standardized reading tests and performed an MRI scan, both of which where conducted at two points in time (during their first year, T1 and then again during their second year T2). They also used TBM, or tensor-based morphometry, which derives information from deformation fields gathered from non-linear transformations. The participants consisted of 28 normal developing children [6 of which had to be excluded due to movement artifacts in their scans] leaving 22 children of which 10 where girls. The participant pool had a mean age of 7.5 yeas and the time between T1 and T2 had a mean time of 349 days. The participants were subject to cognitive two standardized reading tests at both T1 and T2. The first test measured their reading comprehension at a grade scale of 1-6. Children see a picture and select an appropriate word out of four options with alternative options being phonologically and orthographically similar to the target word in length of syllables. The children had to complete as many of the 72 items as possible in 3 minutes. The second test measured their fluency by having the participant pool read as many of the 156 words aloud as possible with a time limit of 1 minutes and another test doing the same thing but for 156 pseudowords. A composite score was produced from the results of both fluency tests. Also, the Raven’s Colored Progressive Matrices test was also performed to gather date on the general intelligence of the participants however, intelligence was only considered as a nuisance. Other nuisance variables were age and gender. They found that T1 the scores varied between 42.25 and 69 (mean = 57.10, SD = 7.13) and at T2 varied between 39 and 66.5 (mean = 53.92, SD = 6.79). It was demonstrated that at T1 and T2, there was no significant correlation with intelligence or sex. The TBM demonstrated, “ cluster showing a positive relationship between gray matter volume at T1 and change in reading proficiency scores between T1 and T2 could be found in the left superior temporal gyrus […] analyses relating volume differences at T1 to reading proficiency at T1 or T2 and the analysis relating volume differences at T2 to reading proficiency at T2 did not result in significant findings” (Linkersdorfer). Previous studies had shown positive associations in temporoparietal and occopitotemporal regions in regards to the measure of gray matter volume, density or thickness, however, in the studies of this article, no such associations could be found.

In the article, Memory Specificity and Mindfulness Jointly Moderate the Effect of Reflective Pondering on Depressive Symptoms in Individuals With a History of Recurrent Depression (Brennan) published by the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, experimenters asked if mindfulness and memory specificity is actually helpful or detrimental to the symptoms of depression or if self-reflection causes a more negative mood, hence reflective thinking as a self-perpetuating depressive state.

Rumination is the pondering of the causes and consequences of a person’s negative mood. Often rumination is done with the hopes of a positive outcome, of reflecting on why one feels a certain way and how to change the way one feels. However, being that a person once depressed is actually susceptible to cognitive vulnerability, may actually become more enveloped in symptoms of depression. It has been noted that people with depression tend to overgeneralize autobiographical events, showing a deficit in memory specificity. Experimenters wonder if this may also lead to more depressed thoughts based on a psychological distance of a person to their self and to their environment. Mindfulness is defined as actively being attentive to present moments and viewing these events in a nonjudgmental lens. From this rises the purpose of the study: whether levels of construal moderate the association of reflection and depressive symptoms. The study hypothesized that “reflective pondering would be a less adaptive process and be associated with relatively higher levels of depressive symptoms among those individuals with both reduced memory specificity and lower levels of mindfulness, whereas in all other reflective pondering should be adaptive and related to relatively lower levels of depressive symptoms.” The experimenters screened a participant pool to gather 276 adults between the ages of 18-70 (mean age= 43.5) who had at least three episodes of depression (2 occurring in the last 5 years and one in the last 2 years), and were remission for the 8 weeks. They were first assessed over the phone and then during the second baseline assessment, completed cognitive tasks such as the AMT. The participants took the Beck Depression Inventory- II where they self-reported the severity of their symptoms in the last two weeks. They also used the Ruminative Response Scale that gave the experimenters an idea of their self-reflective thinking. This scale consisted of a 4 point scale ranging from 1= never to 4= always. The participants were also assessed using a Five-Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire that measures dispositional levels of tendency to be mindful during daily activities in life. Finally, the participants took the Autobiographical Memory Task that determined their ability to remember specific memories of events in their lives. Their verbatim was recorded and four different assessors along with and expert coder, coded their responses. They found that higher levels of reflection corresponded with higher levels of memory specificity, a positive correlation. There was no significant correlation between RRS and BDI-II and well as RRS and FFMQ. RRS brooding showed a negative correlation with FFMQ mindfulness. The results also showed that higher levels of brooding were associated with higher levels of mindfulness. In conclusions the study supported their original hypothesis. Reflection can be detrimental and problematic but it is important to note that it sometimes also depends on the individual’s situation and experience. However, having had depressive episodes, that individual has a greater tendency for negative self-reflection.

In the last article published by Developmental Psychology titled More Symmetrical Children Have Faster and More Consistent Choice Reaction Times (Bates), the theory stemmed from evidence showing the greater cognitive ability in childhood is correlated to increase longevity and faster reaction time. Since greater bodily symmetry is correlated to higher test score and faster reaction times, cognitive ability and bodily symmetry must also be correlated. Such an experiment has not been tested before let alone tested on children. It has been shown that both symmetry and reaction time increase and children develop into adults. The experimenters’ purpose is to “examine the association of symmetry and reaction time in childhood, testing the system integrity hypothesis that these variables will be significantly associated in the human organism prior to aging and illness.” Two studies were conducted. In the study 1, children that attended the 2009 Edinburgh International Science Festival were tested through public science engagement exercises. There background history was not recorded, such as health, cognitive ability and handedness. The pool consisted of 497 children between the ages of 4 and 15 (mean=9.41). Their symmetry was measure by the examination of both their hands and the lengths and widths of their digits. After assessing their symmetry, their reaction times were assessed. Using a device that presented a stimulus and five buttons on a scale of 0 to 4, the participants completed 8 practice trials before completing 20 experimental trials. Incorrect and prepress responses were excluded. As is stated in the study, sex and age were controlled. The results of study 1 showed a good association of reaction time and symmetry as was hypothesized. In study 2, at the same location as the first study during the Edinburgh Science Festival a year later in 2010, children were invited to participate in assessing their reaction time based on symmetry. The participant pool for study 2 consisted of 359 children also between ages of 4 to 15 (mean=9.45 similar to first study). Their background history was also not recorded. There hands were scanned as in the first study and the lengths and widths were again measured. The averages were not significantly different from the averages of the first study. Using a computer and computer monitor, the children were given 8 practice trials and 40 experimental trials. For each trial, four white boxes with blue backgrounds were displayed horizontally. A frog was within each white box. Every time a fly would appear (the stimulus), in intervals of 1-3s, they would press a corresponding key were the frog would swallow the fly. Other tests were administered to assess potentially confounding effects. As in the first study, sex and age were controlled. The second study showed that older children were significantly faster. From both study children that were more symmetrical showed faster choice reaction times. In the second study, there was less variance in symmetrical children’s choice reaction time, unlike the first study. There was no evidence of sex difference observed in this study. The findings seem to support the experimenters’ hypothesis that more symmetrical children have faster reaction times and cognitive ability. It is believed that there is a bodily system integrity that is associated with the quicker RT in symmetrical children.

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