Scholars enter the field of competition
From the football stadium to Wall Street, Americans are well-known for their competitive drive. Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin examine the science behind the success—or failure—on the field.
John Hoberman (left), chair of Germanic studies, examines where sports, science and politics meet. The author of “Testosterone Dreams: Rejuvenation, Aphrodisia, Doping” and “Mortal Engines: The Science of Performance and the Dehumanization of Sport” is an internationally recognized expert on the Olympics.
Robert Josephs researches the cross-talk between the stress and reproductive axes of the human endocrine system. The social and personality psychologist studies how the stress hormone cortisol and the reproductive hormone testosterone relate in affecting dominance, aggression, and sexual behaviors.
The U.S. National Institute of Health awarded a five-year, $1.3 million research grant to cognitive psychologists Art Markman and Todd Maddox (not pictured) to use brain imaging to examine why some people sail through life, while others choke under pressure.
Tracking PTSD Risk Factors Before Soldiers Enter Combat
Most studies on posttraumatic stress disorder focus on soldiers returning from combat, but Michael Telch, professor of psychology, has begun tracking service members before their tours of duty in Iraq. Telch, the principal investigator for the Texas Combat PTSD Project, is working with Ft. Hood to examine how a soldier’s stress level interacts with genetic, neurobiological and psychological factors to predict the development of combatstress disorders.
“This research will provide much-needed insight into the cause of combat-stress disorders, which have affected thousands of men and women who have served in combat situations around the world,” Telch says. “By identifying factors that make a soldier vulnerable to PTSD, we can help to prevent the severe medical condition and develop more effective treatments.”
Reducing the Legal Drinking Age?
Kim Fromme, an internationally renowned researcher on addiction and alcohol use among college-age individuals, has helped to inform the national discussion about whether reducing the legal drinking age would serve to increase or decrease drinking and alcohol-related consequences.
Fromme, a psychology professor, led a team of researchers who followed more than 2,200 university students who began college during 2004 (ages 18 to 22), collecting data on their alcohol use and other behavioral risks. When comparing the two weeks before and after the students turned 21, the researchers found students drank more frequently but consumed less. Also, they observed a 72 percent relative increase among those individuals who reported driving after drinking.
“If we’re talking about drinking and driving, dropping the age is a bad idea,” Fromme explained in a USA Today article last year. “If we’re talking about decreasing the alcohol consumed per occasion, we’re less certain.”
Today, the way we look at the world, how we see ourselves, and how we approach problems all have origins in the psychotherapeutic tradition. It is hard to imagine it was only about 110 years ago that Sigmund Freud introduced his “talking cure” to the public to mixed reviews. Now the various forms of psychotherapy derived from his ideas are some of the most influential forms of healing practiced in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Robert Abzug, the Oliver H. Radkey Regents Professor of History and director of the Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies, has devoted his recent research and teaching to understanding the rapid growth and cultural meanings of psychotherapy in America.
Art Markman, the Annabel Iron Worsham Centennial Professor of Psychology, researches a range of topics about the way people think and reason. He also is an expert consultant to the Dr. Phil show and writes the blog “Ulterior Motives” for Psychology Today magazine.
Learn more about their research in the feature story “In Treatment: From Freud to Dr. Phil, scholars analyze the rise of psychotherapy in America” at www.utexas.edu/features/2009/02/16/ psychotherapy/.
Predicting What you Need
Everyday, we are inundated with a seemingly infinite amount of information that easily can overwhelm our three-pound brains. But, cognitive scientist Bradley Love is here to help us sort through the options before we even realize what we need.
The associate professor of psychology uses a computational model of sequential learning and neurophysiological measures to predict what information we desire. He even can predict when we are going to make a mistake or fail to learn.
Instead of using this work for nefarious purposes, Love incorporates his findings into adaptive display technology that will improve future device interfaces. He also builds his research insights into training technologies that will decrease the learning curve as our performance levels transition from novice to expert.
Love is on the technological frontier of research into what our brains do during complex thinking, developing sophisticated computer models that mimic the way we learn. Recently, these models have been used to improve learning in primary school classes. And, the U.S. Army is interested in Love’s video game innovations to develop devices that learn to predict what we need to reduce information overload such as creating training programs that account for soldiers’ learning fatigue and maximize learning.