Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Nomophobia Test: Fear of Being Without Your Mobile Phone

Take the test for ‘nomophobia': short for “no-mobile-phone phobia”. Psychologists have developed a test for nomophobia: the fear of being without your phone. Nomophobia is short for “no-mobile-phone phobia”. The researchers found four aspects to nomophobia: not being able to communicate, losing connectedness, not being able to access information, and giving up convenience. People in the study responded to the statements below on a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). You can add up your total score, by adding your responses to each item. The higher the score, the more you ‘suffer’ from nomophobia. Here are the statements: I would feel uncomfortable without constant access to information through my smartphone. I would be annoyed if I could not look information up on my smartphone when I wanted to do so. Being unable to get the news (e.g., happenings, weather, etc.) on my smartphone would make me nervous. I would be annoyed if I could not use my smartphone and/or its capabilities when I wanted to do so. Running out of battery in my smartphone would scare me. If I were to run out of credits or hit my monthly data limit, I would panic. If I did not have a data signal or could not connect to Wi-Fi, then I would constantly check to see if I had a signal or could find a Wi-Fi network. If I could not use my smartphone, I would be afraid of getting stranded somewhere. If I could not check my smartphone for a while, I would feel a desire to check it. If I did not have my smartphone with me: I would feel anxious because I could not instantly communicate with my family and/or friends. I would be worried because my family and/or friends could not reach me. I would feel nervous because I would not be able to receive text messages and calls. I would be anxious because I could not keep in touch with my family and/or friends. I would be nervous because I could not know if someone had tried to get a hold of me. I would feel anxious because my constant connection to my family and friends would be broken. I would be nervous because I would be disconnected from my online identity. I would be uncomfortable because I could not stay up-to-date with social media and online networks. I would feel awkward because I could not check my notifications for updates from my connections and online networks. I would feel anxious because I could not check my email messages. I would feel weird because I would not know what to do. The study was published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior (Yildrim et al., 2015).

Friday, August 28, 2015

Making a mistake can be rewarding

The human brain learns two ways -- either through avoidance learning, which trains the brain to avoid committing a mistake, or through reward-based learning, a reinforcing process that occurs when someone gets the right answer. Scientists have found that making a mistake can feel rewarding, though, if the brain is given the opportunity to learn from its mistakes and assess its options. Many political leaders, scientists, educators and parents believe that failure is the best teacher. Scientists have long understood that the brain has two ways of learning. One is avoidance learning, which is a punishing, negative experience that trains the brain to avoid repeating mistakes. The other is reward-based learning, a positive, reinforcing experience in which the brain feels rewarded for reaching the right answer. A new MRI study by USC and a group of international researchers has found that having the opportunity to learn from failure can turn it into a positive experience -- if the brain has a chance to learn from its mistakes. "We show that, in certain circumstances, when we get enough information to contextualize the choices, then our brain essentially reaches towards the reinforcement mechanism, instead of turning toward avoidance," said Giorgio Coricelli, a USC Dornsife associate professor of economics and psychology. For the study, researchers engaged 28 subjects, each around 26 years old, in a series of questions that challenged them to maximize their gains by providing the right answers. If they chose a wrong answer, they lost money, while right answers helped them earn money. One trial prompted their brains to respond to getting the wrong answer with avoidance learning. A second trial prompted a reward-based learning reaction, and a third but separate trial tested whether participants had learned from their mistakes, allowing them to review and understand what they got wrong. In that third round, the participants responded positively, activating areas in their brains that some scientists call the "reward circuit" -- or the "ventral striatum." This experience mimicked the brain's reward-based learning response -- as opposed to an avoidance-learning response, an experience that involves different parts of the brain that together comprise the "anterior insula." Coricelli said this process is similar to what the brain experiences when feeling regret: "With regret, for instance, if you have done something wrong, then you might change your behavior in the future," he said. Coricelli conducted the study with scientists from the University College London, the French Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Systems, the French Institute of Health and Medical Research, and the French National Center for Scientific Research. The findings were published on Aug. 25 in the journal Nature Communications.