Research Roundup

  • Dogs can read human emotionsDogs can read human emotions, according to a study co-authored by Natalia Albuquerque, a psychology doctoral student at the University of Lincoln in the United Kingdom. Researchers presented 17 domestic dogs with pairings of human or dog facial images and audio clips of voices or barks that conveyed different combinations of positive (happy or playful) and negative (angry or aggressive) expressions. The team found that the dogs spent significantly longer looking at the facial expressions that matched the emotional state of the audio clip, for both human and canine faces. The authors say that finding indicates that dogs have mental representations of the positive and negative emotional states of others (Biology Letters, January).
  • Compared with their heterosexual peers, sexual-minority youth score lower on key indicators of positive youth development — and those disparities may be due in part to more bullying, finds research led by Robert W.S. Coulter, a doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh. Coulter and his colleagues examined data from a survey of 1,870 adolescents at U.S. schools and after-school programs in 45 states that measured positive youth development by assessing competence, confidence, connection, character and caring/compassion. The survey also asked participants how often they had been bullied in the past several months. Nearly 7 percent of participants were identified as sexual-minority youth, and of those, 24 percent reported being a victim of bullying, compared with 12 percent of heterosexual youths. The sexual-minority youths also scored significantly lower than their heterosexual counterparts on competence, confidence and connection (American Journal of Public Health, online Jan. 21).
  • Men understand the need for people to get help for depression just as much as women do, finds research led by Brigham Young University graduate student Douglas Wendt. Wendt and his advisor asked study participants to read a scenario describing someone who had symptoms of depression, including difficulty sleeping and trouble concentrating, and who expressed feelings of unhappiness even when good things happen. Participants then rated how important they thought it would be for this person to seek help from friends, family members or religious leaders. Overall, the men ranked getting help as a 7.7 on an importance scale of 1 to 10, a rating similar to women. The results are significant given the stigma that makes men shy away from seeking help (Health & Social Work, February).
  • Young couples experience different emotional benefits from living together or getting marriedYoung couples experience different emotional benefits from living together or getting married, finds research co-authored by Ohio State University doctoral student Sara Mernitz. She and her team analyzed data collected from 8,700 people born between 1980 and 1984 who were interviewed every other year from 2000 to 2010. The researchers found that single young women experienced a similar decline in emotional distress whether they moved in with a romantic partner or went straight to marriage for the first time. Men experienced a drop in emotional distress only when they married, not when they moved in with a romantic partner for the first time. The researchers also found that the emotional benefits of co-habitation or marriage aren't limited to first relationships: Both young women and men experienced a drop in emotional distress when they moved from a first relationship into co-habitation or marriage with a second partner (Journal of Family Psychology, March).
  • Being married might undermine weight-loss success after surgery, finds research led by Ohio State University graduate student Megan Ferriby. Her team reviewed 13 studies on weight-loss surgery published from 1990 to 2014. Four of six studies that addressed marriage and weight loss found that patients who were married lost less weight than their single counterparts. One study with 180 gastric-bypass patients, for example, showed that married surgical patients were 2.6 times more likely to have not reached their goal weight a year after surgery. Another study showed unmarried patients were 2.7 times more likely to stick with postsurgical diet and exercise goals. The researchers said the results illustrate the importance of working with patients' families throughout the surgery and postsurgery process (Obesity Surgery, December).
  • Stimulant medications for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder cause sleep problems, according to a meta-analysis led by University of Nebraska-Lincoln psychology doctoral student Katie Kidwell. She and her team analyzed data from nine peer-reviewed, randomized experiments that relied on clinical sleep studies or wristband monitors used at home, rather than parental reports of child sleep patterns. They found that methylphenidate medications, such as Ritalin, as well as amphetamines, such as Adderall, cause sleep problems, and that more frequent dosages make it harder for children to fall asleep. The study also found that the drugs tend to cause more sleep problems for boys (Pediatrics, December).