Mental Issues

Kevin Lewis

March 16, 2024

“I'm so stressed!”: The relational consequences of stress bragging
Jessica Rodell, Braydon Shanklin & Emma Frank
Personnel Psychology, forthcoming 


Feeling stressed is an unfortunately common experience among employees—and one with significant consequences for personal and professional well-being. Yet, in addition to trying to manage high stress levels, some employees are actively bragging about it to others at work. Given the general negativity of stress, however, the idea of bragging about stress and its relational implications are unclear. To investigate this phenomenon, we introduce the concept of stress bragging and draw on person-perception theorizing to examine its potential workplace consequences for both braggarts and their coworkers. In a combination of a lab experiment (Study 1) and a multi-source field study (Study 2), we show that stress bragging has resoundingly negative implications for braggarts as they are evaluated as less competent and less warm by coworkers, reducing their receipt of citizenship behaviors. Additionally, in Study 2, we find that coworkers of stress braggarts also suffer by experiencing higher levels of burnout due to enhanced stress crossover effects. This research on stress bragging integrates and extends the literatures on stress and self-promotion, while also providing insight into the relational ramifications of this unconventional behavior.

Smartphone use decreases trustworthiness of strangers
Sandy Campbell & Uri Gneezy
Journal of Economic Psychology, June 2024 


Trust is crucial for social, economic, and political relationships. Evidence shows the importance of trust in distinct areas, from the day-to-day forming of personal relations to the stability of democracies. In this paper, we ask how new technologies that compete for our attention affect the formation of trust between strangers. To that end, we study how smartphone use affects interactions with, and subsequent trust in, strangers. In our experiment, we had participants wait in groups of six for approximately 20 min, allowing them to interact as they wished. In one treatment participants could use their phone during the wait time, while in the other they did not have access to their phones. We then randomly paired participants within each group to play a trust game and answer a brief survey. As predicted, we find that limiting phone access resulted in higher levels of trustworthiness.

Adverse Childhood Experiences and Adult Mental Health Outcomes
Hilda Björk Daníelsdóttir et al.
JAMA Psychiatry, forthcoming

Design, Setting, and Participants: This Swedish twin cohort study used a discordant twin pair design based on monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins. A total of 25 252 adult twins (aged 18-47 years) from the Swedish Twin Registry born between 1959 and 1998 were followed up from age 19 years until 2016, with a maximum follow-up time of 39 years. Data were analyzed from April 2022 to November 2023.

Results: Of 25 252 twins included in the study (15 038 female [59.6%]; mean [SD] age at ACE assessment, 29.9 [8.7] years), 9751 individuals (38.6%) reported exposure to at least 1 ACE. A greater number of ACEs was associated with increased odds of any psychiatric disorder in the full cohort (odds ratio [OR] per additional ACE, 1.52; 95% CI, 1.48-1.57). The association remained but ORs per additional ACE were attenuated in DZ (1.29; 95% CI, 1.14-1.47) and MZ (1.20; 95% CI, 1.02-1.40) twin pairs. Individuals who were exposed to sexual abuse compared with those who were not exposed had increased odds of any clinically confirmed psychiatric disorder in all comparisons: full cohort (OR, 3.09; 95% CI, 2.68-3.56), DZ twin pairs (OR, 2.10; 95% CI, 1.33-3.32), and MZ twin pairs (1.80; 95% CI, 1.04-3.11).

The social transmission of empathy relies on observational reinforcement learning
Yuqing Zhou et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 27 February 2024 


Theories of moral development propose that empathy is transmitted across individuals. However, the mechanisms through which empathy is socially transmitted remain unclear. Here, we combine computational learning models and functional MRI to investigate whether, and if so, how empathic and non-empathic responses observed in others affect the empathy of female observers. The results of three independent studies showed that watching empathic or non-empathic responses generates a learning signal that respectively increases or decreases empathy ratings of the observer. A fourth study revealed that the learning-related transmission of empathy is stronger when observing human rather than computer demonstrators. Finally, we show that the social transmission of empathy alters empathy-related responses in the anterior insula, i.e., the same region that correlated with empathy baseline ratings, as well as its functional connectivity with the temporoparietal junction. Together, our findings provide a computational and neural mechanism for the social transmission of empathy that accounts for changes in individual empathic responses in empathic and non-empathic social environments.

Virtual Reality and Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial
Mascha van ’t Wout-Frank et al.
JAMA Psychiatry, forthcoming 

Objective: To test whether active transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) plus virtual reality (VR) is superior to sham tDCS plus VR for warzone-related PTSD.

Design, Setting, and Participants: This double-blind randomized clinical trial was conducted among US military veterans enrolled from April 2018 to May 2023 at a secondary care Department of Veterans Affairs hospital and included 1- and 3-month follow-up visits. Participants included US military veterans with chronic PTSD and warzone-related exposure, recruited via referral and advertisement. Patients in psychiatric treatment had to be on a stable regimen for at least 6 weeks to be eligible for enrollment. Data were analyzed from May to September 2023.

Intervention: Participants were randomly assigned to receive 2-mA anodal tDCS or sham tDCS targeted to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, during six 25-minute sessions of standardized warzone VR exposure, delivered over 2 to 3 weeks.

Results: A total of 54 participants (mean [SD] age, 45.7 [10.5] years; 51 [94%] males) were assessed, including 26 in the active tDCS group and 28 in the sham tDCS group. Participants in the active tDCS group reported a superior reduction in self-reported PTSD symptom severity at 1 month (t = −2.27, P = .02; Cohen d = −0.82). There were no significant differences in quality of life between active and sham tDCS groups. Active tDCS significantly accelerated psychophysiological habituation to VR events between sessions compared with sham tDCS (F5,7689.8 = 4.65; P < .001). Adverse effects were consistent with the known safety profile of the corresponding interventions.


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