Research from the Social and Evolutionary Neuroscience Research Group headed by  Professor Robin Dunbar suggests that humans divide into two groups - those that are faithful in romantic relationships, and those that are not.  The work, published in Biology Letters, argues that these may reflect two distinct mating strategies evolved by humans.  For more information, see the following link:

Perceiving one's causal control is important for adaptive behavior. Studying depression and other individual differences has provided insight into typical as well as pathological causal processing. We set out to study factors that have been shown to distinguish those with and without signs of depression and affect perceptions of causal control: levels of behavior, the availability of outcomes and learning about the environment or context. Two experiments were carried out in which participants, scoring low and high on the Beck Depression Inventory using established cutoffs, completed a causal control task, in which outcomes occurred with a low (25) or high probability (75). Behavior levels were either constrained (N1= 73) or unconstrained (N2= 74). Overall, findings showed that levels of behavior influenced people's experiences of the context in which events occurred. For all participants, very high behavior levels eliminated sensitivity to levels of outcomes occurring in the environment and lead to judgments that were consistent with conditional probabilities as opposed to the experimenter programmed contingency. Thus increased behavior increased perceived control via influence on context experience. This effect was also evident for those scoring high on the BDI. Overall conclusions are that behavior and context provide two important interlinked psychological pathways to perceived control. However, situations that constrain people's ability to respond freely can prevent people with signs of depression from taking control of a situation that would otherwise be uncontrollable.

27 February 2015

It is well established that looked after children are more likely to develop complex behavioural and emotional difficulties, which can leave many foster parents struggling to help and understand the child. This can lead to multiple placements whereby the lack of placement stability leaves the child even more vulnerable. The Family Minds (FM) psycho-educational and interactive programme is a newly developed intervention for groups of foster and adoptive parents. Its nine hours comprise elements of mentalisation-based family therapy; lectures; group exercises and homework with the aim that parents will be able to better understand and support their foster child through increased reflective functioning. We evaluated whether there was a change in the parents’ reflective functioning (verbal mentalisation) pre- to post-FM training compared to a comparison group who experienced a ‘treatment as usual’ four hours of lecture information about trauma and attachment. Using five-minute speech samples pre- and post-training, we coded whether the capacity to think reflectively about oneself and one’s child altered in either training group. We found that parents in the FM group significantly increased their reflective functioning, unlike the comparison group. This outcome was independent of several factors such as the age of the parent, age of the child and time as a carer. The only factor influencing the significant change was the training group in which the parent was placed. These findings suggest that this novel mentalisation-based psycho-educational training programme can successfully increase parents’ reflective functioning, which in turn should enhance and strengthen the understanding and relationship between the foster/adoptive parent and the child and reduce negative outcomes.

Professor Gaia Scerif was awarded a 2015 British Academy Engagement Award for the engagement project entitled "Developmental Science Grows Up: Nurturing Impact." These British Academy awards are "intended to enable established early career scholars to [...] enhance their own skills and career development through the organisation of events, training, and mentoring activities for a wide range of other early career researchers." In Gaia's case, the award is going to support the organisation of four events for early career researchers in developmental science over 2014 and 2015. The central idea is that developmental science is a discipline rife with potential for impact, but for early career researchers it is difficult to: 1) identify what the different impact routes are within the discipline; 2) plan short-term and long-term ways of translating findings into impact. Gaia, in collaboration with Brianna Doherty and Rebecca Merkley, will try and help. Watch this space

( for announcements on specific dates for events.

Cognitive Neuropsychology

Bammens A-S., Adkins TE., Badger JR

Byrom NC., Msetfi RM., Murphy RA.

4 February 2015