Cognitive psychology 2

[5 abstracts]

1. Can Evolutionary Psychology be revived? - A solid epistemological endeavour  [presentation, ptx, 137 kB]
Suessenbacher G.
University of Klagenfurt, Klagenfurt, Austria

Evolutionary Psychology (EP) has been both welcomed because of its promise to reveal the basic structure of the mind as well as profoundly criticized in many ways (e.g. Buller, 2007; and many others). This talk tries (a) to look for some possible onsets of amendments and (b) to present an exemplary model which might serve as a starter for some restructuring endeavours of EP. Ad (a): If only EP renounced its effort to search for Human Nature, a genuine evolutionary investigation seems possible. Such change had to define the scientific aim of EPs research in a new way; however, EP would have very much to count on evolutionary Neuroscience. Ad (b): Taking the question of energy into account when looking at the evolutionary adaptions of the Genus Homo, many semiotic and symbolic (cultural) perspectives become attractive - the very first being the view of the step from australopithecine subsistence to early human existence by inventing and evaluate the use of fire. This talk will present an attempt, the Hot-Interference-&-Symbolic-Transformation Model (HIST) which gathers important features of this topic in order to offer an opportunity for EP to innovatively relate its reconstruction to the current design of the mind. This can be done by stressing the reticular features of antagonist (sub-neocortical versus neo-cortical) loci of control as well as of the polarities of the human mind: The channeling characteristics of which as well as of its substrate (the brain) presumably never did change since the beginning. Nevertheless, their perturbation initiated the start of recursion as an internal neural problem-solver.

2. Adult theory of mind, cooperation, Machiavellianism, sensitivity to punishment and reward: the effect of mindreading on social relations  
Paál T., Bereczkei T.
First author's affiliation: Institute of Psychology, University of Pécs, Pécs, Hungary

Theory of mind – the ability to attribute independent mental states and processes to others – plays an important role in our social lives. First, it facilitates social cooperation, and second, it enables us to manipulate others in order to reach our own goals. In two subsequent studies, we have analyzed some basic aspects of the complex relationship between adult theory of mind and social behavior that had not been researched in depth so far. Our results show 1) a strong negative correlation between Machiavellianism and social cooperative skills; 2) a connection between the extent of cooperative tendency and the level of mindreading; 3) a positive correlation between Machiavellianism and sensitivity to reward; and 4) a lack of significant correlation between theory of mind and Machiavellianism. For the interpretation of the results – especially for our fourth finding – we used the concepts of „hot” and „cold” empathy and the lack of representation of moral emotions. Finally, we have started to explore the effects of theory of mind and Machiavellianism on life-like situations by using various games developed within the game theory paradigm.

3. Problem solving deficits and smaller social network in persons treated for alcoholic liver disease  [presentation, ppt, 634 kB]
Zorko M., Roškar S., Bucik V., Jeriček H., Čebašek Travnik Z., Kocijančič B., Štabuc B.
First author's affiliation: Institute of Public Health of the Republic of Slovenia, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Contemporary research highlights the importance of cognitive functions and availability of social support in the development of alcohol dependence syndrome. Cognitive deficits, specific features of perceived social support, and high prevalence of depression were found in alcohol-dependent persons treated for alcohol dependence by psychiatrists. On the other hand, the population of people treated for alcoholic liver disease in gastroenterology departments has seldom been investigated. The aim of our study was to investigate the prevalence of depression, problem-solving, and perceived social support in persons with alcoholic liver disease (N = 42) as compared to those with non-alcoholic liver disease (N = 9) and hospital controls (N = 31). AUDIT-10, Beck Depression Inventory, Wisconsin Card Sorting Test, Means-ends Problem Solving Test and Perceived Social Support Questionnaire were used. The hypothesis that persons with alcoholic liver disease would show more signs and symptoms of depression as compared to the other two groups was not confirmed. Compared to hospital controls, persons with alcoholic and non-alcoholic liver disease showed decreased cognitive flexibility and deficits in problem solving. Moreover, the group with alcoholic liver disease showed deficits in interpersonal problem solving, which were evident in the phase of generating alternative solutions to the problem. In this group, no correlations between the level of harmful drinking, severity of liver cirrhosis and cognitive deficits were found. Persons with alcoholic liver disease had a smaller social network, while no differences between the groups were found regarding satisfaction with support and other examined social network characteristics. We conclude that psychosocial interventions aimed at persons treated for alcoholic liver disease in gastroenterology departments should focus on teaching effective problem-solving techniques, strengthening supportive network ties and encouraging people to use alternative sources of support.

4. Cognitive features of suicidal and depressed individuals  
Roskar S., Zorko M., Repovs G., Bucik V., Marusic A.
First author's affiliation: Institute of Public health of the Republic Slovenia, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Problem solving deficiencies, attentional bias and reduced anticipation of positive events in the future are regarded as cognitive features which can trigger feelings of hopelessness and subsequently suicidal behaviour. The main objective of the study was to evaluate these attributes and to determine whether these cognitive changes improve over time. Three samples of participants were recruited: individuals after suicide attempt (all diagnosed with depressive disorder), individuals with depressive disorder (no suicide attempt), and healthy volunteers. Each participant was interviewed (for personal and family psychiatric history) and individually tested with neuropsychological tests. Beck Hopelessness Scale was applied to determine the rate of hopelessness. All measures were obtained from participants (except from healthy volunteers) shortly after admission and again 8 weeks later in order to assess cognitive changes over time. Results indicate that suicide attempters and depressed individuals are less efficient problem solvers and exhibit greater levels of hopelessness compared to healthy controls. No differences regarding attentional bias were found between the groups. Among all groups, the biggest lack of future positive events anticipation was exhibited by depressed individuals, in particular depressed individuals with suicide ideation. The later group also scored highest on levels of hopelessness. Except for changes in feelings of hopelessness which decreased over time, no differences in cognitive functions were observed between baseline and retesting. Revealed cognitive features are very likely to be involved in the development of the suicidal process. This particularly holds for feelings of hopelessness and reduced anticipation of positive life events.

5. Psychoacoustic aspects on the speed in the performance of melodies  
Bisesi E., Vicario G.
First author's affiliation: Università di Udine, Udine, Italy

As anyone knows, performed melodies have to span into a certain speed range. At the same time, it is a fact that musicians base their interpretation just on the possibility of selecting any other velocity within that range, provided that their choice allows to preserve the required expressive content. We tested the effect of different acoustical, musical and structural features of a given melody on the suitability of the chosen speed. Experimental stimuli were seven classical musical pieces differing in musical structure, articulation (legato versus staccato), and phrasing (accelerando versus rallentando). Fourteen trained music students served as subjects. Constant stimuli method was applied in submitting trials varying in speed. Preliminary observations showed the influence of musical structure on the performing velocity, in agreement with previous studies on perceptual grouping (Fraisse, 1956). At the same time, adding expressive (agogical) elements widens the range of possible performing speeds.