Friday, April 03, 2009


Amazing! A balanced research report that considers alternative explanations for its findings

Maybe it’s time to retire the “senior moment.” These lapses of memory during everyday life — losing your keys or your train of thought — are thought to be more common in older people.

Not so, researchers from the University of Waterloo in Canada report March 21 at the annual meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society. Researcher Amanda Clark and her colleagues surveyed 30 adults younger than 25 and 24 people ages 60 to 80 to find out how many slips they make each day.

The researchers also devised two lab tests to study attention. One involved pushing a button every time a number appeared on a computer screen, unless the number was three. That test helps researchers determine how often the mind wanders away from a task. The second test involved pushing buttons arranged in a diamond shape in a particular sequence. The exercise mimics a routine, such as making coffee. Once the volunteers learned the routine, the researchers tried to throw participants off by introducing changes in the routine.

Younger people made more errors on the routine-mimicking test than older people did. Younger adults also reported having more “senior moments” in daily life.

The results from reported “senior moments” could mean that older people have developed strategies to protect themselves from lapses in memory and attention, such as keeping keys in the same place, Clark says. In the tests, older adults go slower than their younger counterparts, which may be a form of coping and may improve accuracy. But Clark is not ready to rename memory and attention lapses “junior moments” just yet. Older adults may not report lapses in daily life for fear of being diagnosed with dementia or other illness, or they may not be aware when they make these mistakes.


Siblings benefit from sister presence

Sounds reasonable. Peer pressure is the strongest socialization agent and girls are very sensitive to peer pressure

GROWING up with a sister makes people more balanced, ambitious and optimistic, research suggests. A study of 571 families comprising brothers, sisters, a mixture of both and single children found that having a sister in the home led to siblings of either sex scoring more highly on a range of standard tests for good mental health.

They were found to be better at coping with setbacks and more highly motivated than those who grew up with just brothers. They also had more friends and a better social life.

The research, to be presented today at the British Psychological Society's annual conference in Brighton, was conducted by psychologists at De Montfort University in Leicester and the University of Ulster.

Liz Wright, a research fellow at De Montfort, said that the study began after previous research showed that girls with sisters appeared to experience less distress when they encountered trouble in their lives. "We wanted to see if the positive impact of sisters went farther than just girls and found that it did," she said. "One of the most interesting findings was the impact of female siblings when parents split up. It seems their natural inclination was to express themselves, talk about the separation and encourage other family members to do so as well. It seems to help keep family relationships going. There was markedly less distress in broken homes with a sister."

Psychologists have long believed that "emotional expression" at times of upheaval is fundamental to good psychological health. "Sisters appear to encourage that," Ms Wright said. "However, brothers seemed to have the opposite effect, perhaps discouraging others to talk."

The tests covered how much social support and control over their lives people felt they had, optimism, achievement motivation and ability to cope with setbacks.

The researchers said that the difference when a sister was in the home were "significant". It may help to explain the success of the Williams sisters, who have coped with huge upheaval and pressure in their lives on the professional tennis circuit.

The mental health of only children lay between that of children with a sister and those with only brothers. "It seems many only children had built up significant social support outside the home by the time they reached their late teens, which helped them in a crisis and in other areas of life," Ms Wright said.

The findings suggest that parents who separate should be aware that their sons may struggle to come to terms with the family break-up. The research will also be used in the treatment of eating disorders. The next research will seek to identify more precisely what sisters contribute to family life that makes such a positive difference.


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