Volume 33, No. 10 November 2002

Monitor cover

  Soundbites from APA's 2002 Annual Convention
Print version: page 14

What makes a person feel alone in a room full of their friends?

Research by John T. Cacioppo, PhD, one of this year's APA Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award-winners, points to the sympathetic nervous system for clues.

His team has found that lonely individuals do not differ from the nonlonely in health behaviors, personality or impact of life events, but have greater sympathetic nervous system activity, including cardiovascular responses that can increase blood pressure across a lifetime. That finding could explain why lonely people have higher morbidity and mortality rates than nonlonely people. Cacioppo has also found that lonely people sleep more poorly and heal from wounds at a slower rate.

"Having said some nice things, let me reveal my usual role, which is to say things that are critical or unpopular. It's not too clear to me that the terrible events that happened on 9/11 have had much to do with new models of health care. I would be obliged if someone would help me understand what makes one horrible tragedy more horrible than another. I have a heart full of empathy for the thousands of kids killed by drunken drivers; 16,000 people--mostly young Americans--died in alcohol-related accidents last year. I also feel pain for those who have died unnecessarily because they are poor and have no health insurance.

"After 9/11, New York mental health facilities expected a tidal wave of depressed and traumatized people. They never arrived. But that didn't stop the flow of money--money that may be better spent."

--George Albee, PhD, of the Florida Mental Health Institute, at the session "New models of health-care delivery after Sept. 11."

"At this point, if somebody told me I couldn't utilize my prescriptive authority skills, I don't think I would want to do what I'm doing anymore. It is such an integral part of my practice."

--Prescribing Navy psychologist Lt. Cmdr. Morgan T. Sammons, PhD

"In many cultures...it is not that a smart person is someone who's fast, but rather...someone who thinks slowly, but very deeply and very deliberately. When you have a trivial problem, sure, you don't want to spend a long time on it. [But] if you're making a decision about whether to have a baby, or whether to get married or whether to buy a house...then it would seem like you would want to spend the time to ponder the question carefully. If you were to say about deciding to get married or deciding to have a child, 'You know, I did it in 30 seconds, I'm really smart,' most people would think that that's kind of foolish."

--APA President-elect Robert Sternberg, PhD, of Yale University, on intelligence.

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) urged psychologists to help garner congressional support for his proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution, including those that would uphold the rights of citizens to health care and public education of "equal high quality."

"There are reasons that it's often said [of language impaired children], 'Well, Johnny's just a little bit slow.' What we're finding in this research is that it's literally true: He is slow, his brain is processing more slowly, and that's having enormous ramifications on phonology, which leads to oral language, which leads to written language skills."

--Paula Tallal, PhD, of Rutgers University, on how deficits in the processing of rapid auditory signals lead to language impairments.

"Psychology and the study of human behavior have equalized the power. We've proven through research that women are at least as good as men....We've made what was accepted unaccepted."

--Lenore Walker, EdD, of Nova Southeastern University, who was instrumental in the creation of the diagnosis battered woman syndrome.

"When they make big health changes all at once, most people feel so much better, so quickly, it reframes their reason for changing. What works is not really fear of dying, but joy of living."

--Dean Ornish, MD, on the mind-body interaction that fights deadly disease.

"Although these [public service announcements] are true and well-intentioned, the developers of these messages are missing something fundamental about the influence process. Within the injunctive norm information--'Look at all the people who are doing this undesirable thing!'--lurks the subtext message--'Look at all the people who are doing it!' You've got these two norms at loggerheads with each other."

--Robert Cialdini, PhD, of Arizona State University, on how PSAs that mix descriptive norms (what people actually do) with injunctive norms (what people should do) can actually promote the behaviors they are trying to discourage.

"Do not be comfortable with society today. Go to a health center and volunteer, be out in the community. We have a lot to offer and we're doing a lot, but we have a lot more to give."

--Pat DeLeon, PhD, JD,of the office of Sen. Daniel Inouye (D- Hawaii).

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