“Cultural models, pregnancy, and stress: examining intracultural variation in Jalisco, Mexico”

This is a PhD paper that is nearly 500 pages long and not worth reading entirely at this stage in the process, but the abstract offers some insight and the table of contents helps with finding more relevant pieces. The author measures similar ideas but in Mexico and a more thoroughly pluralistic setting, and also uses a Pregnancy Related Anxiety scale I have not before seen.

Linear regression models indicate that participants who are more consonant in the model have lower levels of both PSS and PRA. Consonance is not associated with EBV antibody levels. Perceiving social support from family and non-family enhances the effect of consonance on PRA, unless perceived family support is above the mean. In this case, the effect is blunted. Social support does not moderate the effect of cultural consonance on PSS.

http://purl.lib.ua.edu/2170

Evolutionary Theory and Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a difficult disease to explain, and therefore one difficult to treat. Increasingly, evolutionary theory is being used to attempt to explain phenomena that are inadequately explained through other frameworks. Nicholas Gatward, in his 2007 article “Anorexia Nervosa: An Evolutionary Puzzle,” outlines evolutionary explanations for the behavior that is archetypical of the disorder.

Typically, when biological/genetic causes are discovered for a behavior, we have reason to believe there is some evolutionary reason for that variation persisting, regardless of its current expression (adaptive vs. maladaptive) in an individual. AN seems to be strictly maladaptive in any context, but Gatward argues for mechanisms that could be adaptive that play a role in the development of this disease. He proposes three different explanations for the development and maintenance of AN: (1) Threat of Exclusion, (2) Threat of Starvation, and (3) Threat of Eating.

The threat of exclusion has roots in the importance of social relationships in our species. Throughout the majority of our evolutionary history, these relationships greatly improved the survival of those involved. If you were not able to cultivate and maintain bonds within your group, you could be shunned and you were much less likely to survive or reproduce. Competing for social resources with the same people you must be accepted by involves complicated assessment of the social climate in order to maintain balance. Social comparison  was, therefore, adaptive throughout much of our history. As social groups grew larger and hierarchies became more pronounced (early human groups were largely egalitarian), social comparisons revealed larger gaps and created greater dissonance within individuals. In our current cultural climate, thinness is seen as a sign of higher status, so restriction (and subsequent weight loss) allows individuals control over their perceived status.

The threat of starvation  provides an explanation for how individuals who begin dietary restriction can continue for such long periods of time when there should be evolutionary mechanisms driving the search for food instead of abstinence. The prevailing theory is that the mechanism that allows people suffering from AN to resist eating is the same mechanism that helped out ancestors deal with famine. Behaviors exhibited by people with AN such as “over activity, denial of starvation, and refusal to eat what limited food is available” are all components of adapted behaviors meant to get people to seek places with more food instead of conserving energy in a place of famine. Regardless of the original reason for restricting, the results activate this famine response and make long term starvation possible.

The threat of eating is another explanation for how starvation can be maintained and treatment attempts are largely unsuccessful. There are a couple different explanations within this category, but they both recognize AN behavior as a submissive response to social competition. First, it is believed that women of higher status use their influence to perpetuate the idea that thinness is desirable, resulting in the development of AN behavior in lower status individuals, therefore removing them from social competition. Second, AN could be a way for individuals to remove themselves from competition by suppressing reproduction, resulting in the removal of stress associated with competition. With this view, it is easy to see how recovery can seem unappealing if it means re-entering competition that individuals view as a losing battle.

These three explanations have their strengths and weaknesses. I find that the threat of exclusion and threat of starvation (adapted to flee famine) explanations are the most persuasive. They reflect current social climates and adequately explain how once adaptive mechanisms can be influenced by environmental factors to become maladaptive to the degree exhibited in those with AN. I especially like the “adapted to flee famine” example, because it exhibits how the ability to endure long periods of starvation is adaptive, contrary to how we normally think of evolutionary adaptations.

I think the threat of eating framework is a little harder to justify and therefore is his weakest argument. His examples are pulled from several different directions and I don’t feel that they are adequately synthesized. Particularly, the argument that AN is a result of higher status individuals perpetuation of thin-ideal in order to eliminate low status competition doesn’t really make sense to me. My own observations have seen AN as a “high class” disorder. Maybe I’m misunderstanding this argument, but I think Gatward’s lack of elaboration on this point is indicative that he doesn’t put as much stock in this explanation as the others.

Gatward does a good job of pointing readers in the direction of how these evolutionary explanations could be translated into individual causation of this disorder. I don’t think he quite hits the mark, but he does make a point of distinguishing ultimate and proximate explanations of behavioral phenomena. That is, evolutionary explanations are ultimate, meant to explain how AN behaviors were once adaptive. Proximate explanations, or those on an individual level, are best explained through other frameworks. I think we can understand proximate explanations better in the context of evolutionary theory, but we should not rely on solely on evolutionary theory when considering how to deal with this behavior individually.

Overall, I thought this article was informative and successful in getting me to think about AN outside of the psychological framework. It is easy to say that these disorders are a product of their environment, but stopping with that explanation is not very helpful when helping patients recover.

All information for this summary/review from:
Gatward, N. (2007). Anorexia Nervosa: An Evolutionary Puzzle.
European Eating Disorders Review, 15, 1-12.

Video Games Enhance Cognition

While I’ve found nothing that compares video game styles cross-culturally, there has been a recent surge of research concerning Western action games and their influence on cognitive and perceptual function.

Here’s an article detailing video game training for adults. Video gaming can potentially be rehabilitative.

If you have no idea what the differences are between Japanese and American games, this interview can give you an idea
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A Dissertation on Midwifery & Women’s Autonomy

This is a dissertation on midwifery and it feminist power. It turned up in my search queries on “midwifery” and “Alabama” because it was published at UA, but I don’t think it’s quite what I’m looking for — bit more focused on reproductive rights, feminism, and destroying the medical-industrial complex.  However, some paragraphs provide some useful statistics and information, and also point to other sources that could be useful.

Prime usefulness is in the section starting on page 40. I didn’t read much before or beyond that section, to be honest.

http://purl.lib.ua.edu/13873

 

College and Stress

I needed an article that talked about stress, and that validated my choice to study college students as opposed to another group.

One word can describe this article: bingo.

This article goes into detail describing how and why college students are so stressed out all the time. The article also illustrates some side effects of stress, such as loneliness and anxiety.

Wright, J. J. (1967). Reported personal stress sources and adjustment of entering freshmen. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 14(4), 371-373. doi:10.1037/h0024750

 

Social support

One of the main problems I encountered when brainstorming about my proposal was determining a way to measure social support.

Luckily I found an article describing the Social Support Questionnare (SSQ) which provides quantitative data about the amount and perceived quality of support received. The questionnaire asks about the number of people on whom one could receive support from in a variety of situations. It also asks participants to rank their satisfaction with this support. The numbers are then averaged to provide a singular score.

 

Sarason, I. G., Sarason, B. R., Shearin, E. N., & Pierce, G. R. (1987). A brief measure of social support: Practical and theoretical implications. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 4(4), 497-510.

Somatic Anxiety and Blood Pressure

In order to measure the somatic anxiety in the participants, blood pressure and heart rates would be taken. The American Heart Association and Mayo Clinc provided me with a probable testing criteria in my proposal.  Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of the arteries during relaxation and contraction. It is typically recorded as two numbers in a ration, systolic which is the top number, measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats (heart muscles are contracted) and diastolic which in turn is the bottom number measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats (when the muscles are in a resting state between beats).” (Mayo Clinic, 2014).

Mayo Clinic

2014. Understanding Blood Pressure Readings. Electronic document. <http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/AboutHighBloodPressure/Understanding-Blood-Pressure-Readings_UCM_301764_Article.jsp>

Anxiety, A Normal Stress Reaction

To get a basic feel for the psychological issues behind anxiety, The National Institute for Mental Health helped with the background information and a start into the neurological reasonings behind why we react the way we do to stress.  “Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. It is used as a coping mechanism, for memories, fear, or dealing with stress and pressure.” These symptoms allows one to get into the mind and visualize what an athlete is experiencing and further my investigation into the SNS and ANS systems.

 

National Institute for Mental Health

2014. Anxiety. Electronic Document. <http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety- disorders/index.shtml>

Cognitive Anxiety and Somatic Anxiety in a Negative Relationship

Since a person reacted to stress both somatically and cognitively Martens article on the Multi-dimensional Anxiety Theory adds another idea to the mix. Research has found a relationship between cognitive anxiety and somatic anxiety within a person creates a negative linear relationship. Meaning that somatic anxiety will create the inverted-U as stated before, but as cognitive anxiety increases, performance in the individual will decrease (Martens 1990). 

Martens, R. et al.

1990. The Development of the Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-2 (CSAI-2). Human Kinetics

Anxiety Arousal and Performance Issues

This article helped greatly in understanding the different levels of stress. Yerkes gave a detailed breakdown on the Inverted-U Hypothesis on the relationship between anxiety and performance. This hypothesis indicated that as arousal increases, then performance also increases and improves but only up to a certain point. If the individuals arousal is pushed beyond the max point then performance will have the inverted affect and diminishes, creating an inverted U shape.

Yerkes and Dodson

1908. The relation of strength of stimulus to rapidity of habit formation. Journal of of Neurological Psychology