The Psychological Effects of Violent Media, and Other News

Blurred paramedics and crime scene tape reading "police do not cross"Yesterday, news broke that Miami police had shot Charles Kinsey, an unarmed mental health worker tending to a man with autism. Kinsey says he had his hands up at the time of the shooting, and video supports this claim. Kinsey survived, and Miami police have provided no information about why they shot him. The story is just one amid a string of violent encounters that have recently made headlines.

News reports on violence—including stories about mass shootings, police brutality, and terrorism, among other events—have dominated the news for weeks. Each report is typically followed by explosive Facebook and Twitter postings, arguments about the politics of violence, and a slow creep toward the latest tragedy becoming old news, in a cycle that may already seem predictable to many. Just as the public has adjusted to an act of violence and its aftermath, the next makes its way into the collective consciousness.

So how is this constant influx of violence affecting us? Some experts argue we are becoming desensitized. Research also points to the vicarious trauma some people experience in response to violent news. A 2015 study exposed 189 participants to violent news about terrorism and school shootings. Twenty-two percent of participants were greatly affected by the news. Researchers also found that frequent exposure to violent news actually increased the effects of subsequent violent news, findings that suggest the more violent media a person sees, the more likely it is they will experience vicarious trauma.

Unusual Condition Lets People See Sign Language in Colors

Synesthesia is a rare condition that causes people to mix sensory signals in such a way that they might hear the taste of food or taste the sound of words. A new study has, for the first time, documented synesthesia in people who use sign language. Four people out of a total of 50 participants who were deaf, had synesthesia, and/or used sign language were found to have color synesthesia—they associated the same colors with the same sign letters in every instance of a series of tests.

Is Schizophrenia a Disorder of the Immune System?

People with schizophrenia sometimes show biomarkers for inflammation, a symptom associated with autoimmune and other immune conditions. A new analysis of the genetics underpinning schizophrenia suggests that, while genes that play a role in immune function may also play a role in schizophrenia, the genetic pattern of schizophrenia is different from that associated with autoimmune conditions.

Can You Get Addicted to Sunbathing?

Suntan lotion and hat on beachMillions of people continue to sunbathe and use tanning beds, in spite of clearly established risks associated with excess UV exposure. Research on mice suggests that sunbathing might actually be addictive because of its ability to elevate endorphins, chemicals that produce temporary feelings of euphoria and well-being. According to Frances Levin, a psychiatry professor and addiction specialist, there is not yet sufficient evidence to provide diagnostic criteria for an addiction to sunbathing. Levin also highlights the ways a diagnosable addiction differs from poor decision-making.

Can We Trust Peer Review? New Study Highlights Some Problems has covered a number of recent studies highlighting psychology’s so-called reproducibility problem. Now, new research aims to explore why peer review is not always reliable. Researchers used a mock art exhibition to test how a competitive review process—which is similar to the review process journals use, since peers reviewing research are often in competition with one another—might affect outcomes. While competition did boost innovation, it also increased the likelihood that reviewers would unfairly review their peers’ work.

Psychology Experts on How Police Cope With Fear, Stress

Police must fill a number of demanding roles—working with troubled children, calming mental health crises, and rapidly assessing dangerous situations. Recent police shootings have shed light on the psychological challenges of policing, which include frequent exposure to traumatic events, chronic stress, and increased fear. Ellen Kirshman, a psychologist who has worked with members of the police force for 30 years, recommends officers seek the support of their peers and communicate feelings of stress and anxiety associated with their work to their friends and families.

A Hunger Crisis in the L.G.B.T. Community

Stories about people in the LGBT community often focus on the community’s most affluent members, such as Ellen DeGeneres, Caitlyn Jenner, and Apple executive Tim Cook. This focus, however, conceals a crisis of poverty affecting many LGBT people. A new report on LGBT hunger found that 25% of people in the community—1 in 4—were unable to feed themselves or their families at least once during the last year. The figure for non-LGBT people is comparatively lower, at about 17%–1 in 6. Members of the LGBT community face discrimination in employment, may be less likely to be insured, and, until recently, were barred from marriage in many parts of the United States and were thus unable to access the financial benefits marriage often provides.

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  • Minnie

    July 23rd, 2016 at 9:21 AM

    Well i see tons of people who are way too tan and I know that they are hitting the beach and laying out or going to tanning beds all the time. I am not sure how they have all missed the message that tanning is so bad for them? I would like to have a little glow too but they make that in a bottle now so I am just fine with that.

  • Grace

    July 23rd, 2016 at 11:53 AM

    If anything I think that forever seeing that this kind of violence happens in this world all the time has made me much more mindful of my surroundings and really a lot more fearful of life in general. There are places that I no longer want to go because I think about how easy it would be to have someone come in and launch a terrorist attack. I think that my tendency is to pay attention to it then want to hide although I try not to because I understand that this is exactly what those perpetrating the violence want, to scare us into inaction.

  • Joseph

    July 25th, 2016 at 11:30 AM

    My assumption would be that police officers would experience a great deal of stress and worry about doing their jobs. It has to be worrisome to think about the dangers that this kind of job will hold for someone day in and day put, and yet this is what they do so they have to fight through what fear they may have.

  • RonnieB

    July 25th, 2016 at 2:43 PM

    Would it be appropriate to just say that for someone somewhere there is a hunger crisis? This is something that is prevalent in many communities and yet we are unwilling to accept or recognize this.

  • Claudia

    July 26th, 2016 at 10:25 AM

    I don’t necessarily think that peer review is a bad thing. I know that we are going to be highly critical of one another but I try to see that not as competition in nature but just because we want the very best on a professional level. This is what we expect not only of ourselves but also of our peers and so if we judge harshly it is because we want to do it to advance the profession, not to be critical and hold someone back.

  • Talia

    July 27th, 2016 at 2:04 PM

    I hate to even watch the news anymore because there is never anything positive or uplifting, just a death toll somewhere for that day. It really is sort of depressing to see what we have devolved into.

  • Judith

    July 27th, 2016 at 4:57 PM

    sit on any beach anywhere and it is guaranteed that you will see many who have become sun worshipers

  • jodi

    July 28th, 2016 at 10:49 AM

    If there really is a correlation between diseases of the autoimmune system and schizophrenia that will turn out to be highly interesting.

  • Cherith

    July 28th, 2016 at 1:41 PM

    I come from a family of police officers and for most of them it does not seem to be in their DNA to have that ability to ask someone else for help. They are so focused on always saving someone else that their own safety becomes an afterthought.

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