Boredom is among the least studied epidemics inflicting the world, with brain doctors still being largely clueless about how tedium affects people’s lives, reported the Hindustan Times July 12. In Perspectives on Psychological Science, psychologist John Eastwood of York University in Toronto describes boredom as “an unfulfilled desire for satisfying activity,” where a person wants to be stimulated and do something, but is unable to connect with the world around. Read full story.

Readers are better romantics, studies suggest

Several studies suggest fiction readers not only show more empathy than their peers, but are also more likely to fall in love, and develop intimacy with another person, reported The Huffington Post July 14. Raymond Mar, a York University psychologist, and Keith Oatley, a former cognitive psychology professor from University of Toronto, published two studies on this direct connection in 2006 and 2009. The pair writes “deep reading” helps fine-tune one’s “theory of mind,” through intense sensory immersion in literary material. Read full story.

York Psychology Graduate Student Wins Prestigious Neuroscience Award; Fellow York student runner-up

It was a banner day for York Graduate Psychology with two students receiving the top prize and runner-up, respectively, for a prestigious graduate student neuroscience award.

Sabrina Lemire-Rodger, a second year Master’s student in clinical psychology in York’s Department of Psychology, won the Donald O. Hebb Graduate Student Award for best poster among more than 200 posters that were presented at the annual meeting of the Canadian Society for Brain, Behaviour and Cognitive Science (CSBBCS) that took place July 3rd to 5th in Toronto at Ryerson University.

Her poster was entitled “Dissociating the Neural Correlates of Executive Control” and showcased her work on higher order cognition, also known as “executive functioning” in the brain that controls cognitive abilities such as memory, flexible thinking and maintaining self-control. Lemire-Rodger analyzed data that was collected on York’s state-of- the-art MRI scanner.

Sabrina Lemire-Rodger

Sabrina Lemire-Rodger

The CSBBCS is a key organization for the promotion and support of experimental psychology and behavioural neuroscience in Canada. The society advances research concerning brain, behaviour, and cognitive science in Canada, according to the highest standards of scientific inquiry and promotes and fosters the education and training of students in these scientific disciplines. In his congratulatory letter to Lemire-Rodger, CSBBCS President Jean Saint-Aubin wrote: “Your work reflects the high quality of research currently being carried out by Canadian students. We are very proud of you.” The award includes a cheque for $500, a plaque, and free membership in the Society for one year.

“It was very exciting and an honour to receive this award,” said Lemire-Rodger. “It’s also very gratifying to have such interest and recognition from our peers for the research currently taking place in our lab.”

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Toronto Zoo sloth joins pantheon of World Cup animal oracles

York University psychology Professor Suzanne MacDonald said the allure of psychic animals taps into a lot of things, such as our tendency to be superstitious, fascination for animals and inclination to gamble and look to anything for an edge to win. “It’s pretty natural that humans use animals as omens,” she said in the Toronto Star July 11, pointing to the black cat crossing the road and speculation that some animals can predict earthquakes and other natural disasters. Read full story.