Exporting data from SPSS to Mplus – a simple step-by-step guide

Exporting data from SPSS (23) to Mplus (7.3) – a simple step-by-step guide

Exporting data from SPSS to Mplus is theoretically a simple process, but can still be a little more complicated than it should be. Various instructions exist all over the Web, but many of them forgo a couple of details that may not be obvious to novices. Here’s my reasonably fool-proof step-by-step guide.

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“Dear Dr. S …” – Invitations from predatory publishers

An interesting side effect of having published an article in a widely indexed open access journal has been the influx of invitations to publish articles/reviews/comments/anything at all or to review research articles in a variety of journals with names ranging from Medical Sciences to the Austin Journal of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences. In a similar vein, I have been invited to appear as a distinguised speaker at, e.g., the annual 4th International Conference and Exhibition on Immunology and the International Conference on Brain Disorders and Therapeutics.

Publishing a single study protocol has clearly made me a veritable superstar of science, as my contribution is urgently needed at all sorts of events and publications barely even related to my field of study. How flattering! What’s more, these invitations have addressed me variously as “Doctor Kangaslampi”, “Dr. Samuli Kangaslampi” and even “Dr S.”, though my PhD is still a few years off. An understandable confusion looking at my long list of publications and academic work over many years!

These invitations are, of course, part of an unfortunate trend of elaborate scams circulating in the academia.

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Worksheet for examining mediator effects

Mediating/intervening variable effects can be examined and demonstrated in a variety of ways in psychological research. One approach is the so-called difference in coefficients method, where the significance of the difference between the direct path from X to Y with no mediated path via M and the direct path from X to Y when a mediated path (X->M->Y) exists is tested. The attached simple Excel worksheet provides an easy way to do this using the Freedman-Schatzkin approach to estimating the standard error of the difference. The sources used are detailed in the worksheet.

As mentioned, there are many other ways to examine mediator effects, so only use this if you know what you’re doing. This method appears to be superior to, e.g., the old Baron & Kenny steps approach, but personally, I’d recommend boostrapping for most uses.

Difference in coefficients t-test for mediating variable effect

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A Dose of Ruthlessness: Interpersonal Moral Judgment Is Hardened by the Anti-Anxiety Drug Lorazepam

Article of the Week:

A Dose of Ruthlessness: Interpersonal Moral Judgment Is Hardened by the
Anti-Anxiety Drug Lorazepam

by Perkins, A., Leonard, A., Weaver, K., Dalton, J., Mehta, M., Kumari, V., Williams, S. & Ettinger, U. (2013).

(Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 142(3), 612-620. DOI: 10.1037/a0030256)

Background

As unfashionable as it may be in many circles, I am a strong believer in free will. I have to be, for working as a psychologist or conducting psychological research to make any sense to me, personally. At the same time, I am keenly aware of how great an impact internal and external circumstances have on our decision-making capabilities and choices. As such, the effects of emotional states and responses on moral decisions are a fascinating topic, and that’s why I chose to present this article on a rather simple study on the effects of the anxiolytic drug lorazepam on ruthlessness in moral decisions. Continue reading ‘A Dose of Ruthlessness: Interpersonal Moral Judgment Is Hardened by the Anti-Anxiety Drug Lorazepam’ »

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Does Narrative Exposure Therapy Reduce PTSD in Survivors of Mass Violence?

Article of the Week:

Does Narrative Exposure Therapy Reduce PTSD in Survivors of Mass Violence?

by McPherson, J. (2012).

(Research on Social Work Practice, 22(1), 29-42. DOI: 10.1177/1049731511414147)

Background

As a comeback to my series of summaries of interesting scientific research articles in psychology, I’ll start with something directly relevant to my current work as a PhD Candidate researcher.

After a particularly frightening, dangerous or otherwise intensely stressful experience, stress reactions can be considered normal. However, if such symptoms persist for several months, we may speak of persistent post-traumatic stress symptoms and, in cases where they reach a certain clinically significant level, of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Typically, PTSD symptoms consist of involuntarily re-experiencing the traumatic event in some way (flashback phenomena, intrusive thoughts and memories), avoiding places, people and things that are reminders of the trauma or act as triggers for re-experiencing, and hyper-arousal (problems concentrating, sleeping, over-vigilance, feelings of danger).

The standard treatments for PTSD and related symptoms include trauma-focused and other forms of cognitive behavioral therapy. However, clinicians and researchers have found that these standard treatments often do not work so well with individuals who have repeatedly experienced many traumatic incidents, especially in contexts such as war and armed conflict. With this in mind, new forms of therapy appropriate for such sequentially traumatized individuals are needed.

One such relatively new form of therapy is Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET), developed by M. Schauer, F. Neuner and T. Elbert, drawing on emotional processing theory, trauma-focused CBT and testimonial therapy. It is a program of on average eight sessions, where emotional processing and thus healing is thought to occur through repeated narration of the traumatic events leading to habituation to their distressing effects, as well as through the reconstruction of a coherent narrative of the events and their place in the individual’s autobiographical memories. The entire life story of the patient, including her/his most negative and traumatic as well as positive experiences, is narrated and written down in detail during the therapy.

The article summarized here is a review by J. McPherson of the evidence “so far” (until 2011 or so, that is) on the effectiveness of Narrative Exposure Therapy to reduce PTSD symptoms, mainly in survivors of different forms of mass violence.

Continue reading ‘Does Narrative Exposure Therapy Reduce PTSD in Survivors of Mass Violence?’ »

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AotD: Argentine tango dance compared to mindfulness meditation and a waiting-list control

Article of the Day:

Argentine tango dance compared to mindfulness meditation and a waiting-list control:

A randomised trial for treating depression

by Pinniger, R., Brown, R.F., Thorsteinsson, E.B., & McKinley, P. (2012).

(Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 20, 377-384. DOI: 10.1016/j.ctim.2012.07.003)

Background & Research

Depression and anxiety problems are massive public health issues, not to mention sources of great suffering for millions of people worldwide. In addition to the current standard approach of medication and/or, more rarely, psychotherapy, a great number of somewhat more alternative treatments/forms of help have been proposed and developed for depression and anxiety. Programs or treatments that would be easy to implement, preferably in group settings, inclusive, and cost-effective garner great interest for practical reasons.

Physical activity overall has been found to significantly alleviate depressive symptoms and psychological distress. This is especially true for recreational physical activity, as opposed to specific rehabilitation exercises. Dance combines physical activity with other features found to promote mental well-being, including expressive characteristics, music and (in the case of pair/group dancing) a strong social and physical connection to another person. Not surprisingly, studies have reported dance “therapies” to be at least an effective adjunct to other forms of therapy for depression and anxiety.

Argentinian-style tango dancing in particular adds to the equation requirements for greater awareness of one’s own body and that of the partner, as well as awareness of the current experience in the here and now overall, trust in the partner, and significant skills acquisition over time. A number of physical and social benefits from tango dancing have already been demonstrated (e.g., improved balance, self-esteem, quality of life, coordination, walking speed). Further, despite its generally melancholic contents, tango music has been shown to generate positive emotions, and combined with partnered dancing to improve a person’s emotional state.

In light of these features of tango music and dancing, the study this article reports on examined the possibility that tango dancing could be employed as a mindfulness-based treatment for affective symptoms. Other more clearly mindfulness-based interventions, such as Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy, have previously been shown to reduce symptom severity in, e.g., depression and pain, in several studies. Out of particular mindfulness activities, meditation has repeatedly been found to improve psychological well-being in many ways. The authors propose that tango dancing shares attributes with such mindfulness promoting approaches, and could represent a novel form of group intervention combining elements of physical activity and mindfulness. Continue reading ‘AotD: Argentine tango dance compared to mindfulness meditation and a waiting-list control’ »

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AotD: Psychedelics and Mental Health: A Population Study

Article of the Day:

Psychedelics and Mental Health: A Population Study

by Krebs, T. S., & Johansen, P-Ø. (2013)

(PLoS ONE, 8(8), e63972. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0063972)

Background

Psychedelic substances, such as psilocybin-containing mushrooms, DMT-containing brews (ayahuasca), mescaline-containing cacti, ibogaine-containing roots and seeds with LSA, have been used for religious, shamanistic, divination and healing purposes by various cultures for thousands of years. Since the 1960s especially, the use of psychedelics, most commonly lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD-25), psilocybin and mescaline, has also been relatively widespread in the “Western” world for various purposes, including recreational, spiritual and religious uses.

Much research into the potential therapeutic uses of (some) psychedelics was carried out in the 1950s and 1960s, but due to political, legislative and other reasons, a long hiatus followed. In recent years, starting with DMT studies in the 1990s, and over the last 5-10 years in particular, there has been increasing renewed interest in such uses. In light of this renewed interest, research over the safety of these substances appears of great importance.

It is known that the “classic” serotonergic psychedelics, that is, LSD, psilocybin and mescaline, are physically very safe substances, non-addictive, and do not lead to violence or other major social problems in the way some psychoactive substances do. When considering the possible risks of these substances, the main concern has focused on potential mental health effects, in particular on possible links to long-term psychotic, phobic or PTSD-like symptoms. Psychedelics can indeed elicit very intense experiences in their users, often positive and even ecstatic or rapturous but sometimes negative and terrifying. In light of these extreme effects, and some (though limited) similarities in states produced by psychedelic use and those experienced during mental illness, it is not surprising that many have wondered about the connections between psychedelic use and mental health, and some case reports of long-term mental problems following psychedelic use exist.

Continue reading ‘AotD: Psychedelics and Mental Health: A Population Study’ »

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AotD: Family-, Media-, and School-Related Risk Factors of Video Game Addiction

Article of the Day:

Family-, Media-, and School-Related Risk Factors of Video Game Addiction: A 5-Year Longitudinal Study

by Rehbein, F., & Baier, D. (2013)

(Journal of Media Psychology, 25(3), 118-128.  DOI: 10.1027/1864-1105/a000093)

 

Background & Research

The effects of video games on children and youngsters as well as full-on video game addiction are topics that receive a fair bit of attention in the general media. As the importance of interactive screen media continues to grow in our societies, problematic use of video games has also been increasingly studied, and estimates of video game addiction (GA) range from 0,6 % (Norway) to 8.5 % (USA) among adolescents.

In studies with cross-sectional designs, male gender, higher impulsiveness, higher acceptance of violence, lower empathy, emotional stability and attractiveness, inferior social skills, higher negative valence and stress levels have been identified as person-based risk correlates for GA.

As regards risk correlates more directly related to the games played, more time spent gaming overall has been found to be a risk factor, but other factors matter too. Gaming online seems to have more of an association with GA than offline gaming, and so does gaming for reasons of status, escape or outside demands. Playing massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) also seems more linked to GA than playing other game types.

Several risk correlates relating to the social environment have been found to be relevant, too. These include lack of success in real life, low parental support, elevated use of video games by parents, divorce or separation of parents and school-related behavioral and educational problems. Continue reading ‘AotD: Family-, Media-, and School-Related Risk Factors of Video Game Addiction’ »

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AotD: Optimism Is Universal

Article of the Day:

Optimism Is Universal: Exploring the Presence and Benefits of Optimism in a Representative Sample of the World

by Gallagher, M. W., Lopez, S. J., & Pressman, S. D. (2013)

(Journal of Personality, 81(5). 429-440.  DOI: 10.1111/jopy.12026)

 

Background & Research

Recent theories of and studies on optimism tend to agree that  optimism is an adaptive psychological resource and provides overall benefits for individuals, rather than being a damaging delusion as was earlier thought by some philosophers and psychologists. While there are some indications that defensive pessimism may be adaptive and optimism maladaptive in some very specific circumstances, overall, numerous studies and meta-analyses have shown higher levels of optimism to be  linked to improved psychological health, in particular subjective well-being, as well as subjective, and to a lesser extent objective, physical health.

However, as with so much psychological research, optimism and its effects have mainly been studied in industrialized, relatively wealthy nations. Are the results obtained in such studies then generalizable to the entire world? Is optimism a) widely present and b) adaptive in other parts of the world, where, e.g.,  economic outlooks may be more dire and life expectancy and other Quality of Life indicators are lower? Continue reading ‘AotD: Optimism Is Universal’ »

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AotD: Is personality modulated by language?

Article of the Day:

Is personality modulated by language?

by Veltkamp, G. M., Recio, G., Jacobs, A. M., & Conrad, M. (2012)

(International Journal of Bilingualism, 17(4). 496-504. DOI: 10.1177/1367006912438894)

Background & Research

The complex relationships between language and culture, as well as thought and personality, have been the subject of great interest and research since at least the 19th century, for psychologists, linguists, philosophers and even romantic/nationalist thinkers. Linguistic relativity, for instance, was a particularly hot topic in the first half of the 20th century. As regards more recent psychological research, there are indications that different languages carry different emotional tones, in that people fluent in several languages behave and feel in different ways when speaking one language as compared to another. There is also evidence that language learning on the whole is closely tied to the internalization of cultural norms and values that appear to be inherently present in the language. It has been said that culture provides different formulaic ways for expressing thoughts and feelings, and if this is the case, language is the most likely process for this to occur through.

For multilingual individuals, researchers have suggested that by learning new languages, individuals simultaneously gain access to new cultural meaning systems, and can then switch between different culturally appropriate behaviors. If that is the case, might expressed dimensions of personality also change when using another language? Continue reading ‘AotD: Is personality modulated by language?’ »

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