Volume 11 (04)
Yulia Kovas (Professor of Genetics and Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London)
Education and human development
Background: Effortful control is a core aspect of self-regulation and refers to the ability to voluntarily regulate behaviour and attention, measured by temperament questionnaires. Although the Temperament in Middle Childhood Questionnaire is widely used in different countries, this measure has not been fully explored. Most research on the links of effortful control with personality and important outcomes has been carried out in Western nations; the possibility of extending these findings to other cultures requires study.
Objective: To examine effortful control and its relations to personality and wellbeing in a community sample of primary schoolchildren in Russia.
Design: Parents of 7–10-year-olds (N = 614) completed the abbreviated Effortful Control scale of the TMCQ, the Inventory of Child Individual Differences–Short version, and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ); teachers provided SDQ data and school grades; children completed the Students’ Life Satisfaction Scale.
Results: The findings supported a four-factor structure of Effortful Control, including Attention Focusing, Inhibitory Control, Activation Control, and Low-Intensity Pleasure. Effortful Control was associated with the personality traits of Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, and Openness, and also with Positive Emotions and low Neuroticism. Effortful Control was also associated with academic achievement, subjective well-being, and lower levels of externalising and internalising problems. Structural modelling showed that Attentional Control contributed to problem behaviour and subjective wellbeing; Inhibitory Control contributed to externalising problems; and Activation Control contributed to academic achievement.
Conclusion: Effortful Control and its components were strongly related to higherand lower-order personality traits. The findings confirmed the important role of effortful control in the academic success and well-being of Russian primary schoolchildren.
Keywords: effortful control, middle childhood, personality, well-being, problem behaviour, academic achievement, life satisfaction
Background. While the current literature provides valuable insight into how school climate perceptions and student motivation impact academic achievement, research examining the mediating effects of motivation in the linking of an innovative educational system, school climate, and achievement is limited. This study considers the potential of the El’konin–Davydov system of developmental education as a basis for educational innovation. Self-determination theory is applied as a useful theoretical framework that allows for consideration of both the intensity and the quality of academic motivation.
Objective. The study examines a model that illustrates the role of intrinsic and different types of extrinsic motivation in linking the El’konin–Davydov system of developmental education (DE) and school climate to the academic achievement of elementary schoolchildren.
Design. Participants were 345 third and fourth graders drawn from four public schools in Moscow, with some (N = 192, 2 schools) educated in the traditional system and others (N = 153, 2 schools) in one that follows the DE system. A cross-sectional design was implemented.
Results. Students in the DE system showed significantly lower external motivation for all three subscales (Parents, Teachers, General) and perceived school climate more favorably. Structural equation modeling showed that the hypothesized model fit the data well, supporting the hypothesis that student external motivation plays a mediating role in linking educational system (innovative vs. traditional) with academic achievement. Students’ autonomous motivation was shown to play a mediating role in linking positive perceptions of school climate with academic achievement.
Conclusion. The elementary school students from developmental education classes compared to their peers from traditional education classes demonstrate more positive profile of academic motivation including lower external motivation, more positive attitude towards school and study; however, the two groups do not differ in the level of intrinsic, identified, and introjected motivations.
Keywords: Intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, self-determination theory, El’konin–Davydov developmental educational system, school climate, academic achievement, elementary schoolchildren
Background. Spatial ability (SA) has long been the focus of research in psychology, because it is associated with performance in science, technologies, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Research has shown that males consistently outperform females in most aspects of SA, which may partially explain the observed overrepresentation of male students seeking STEM degrees.
Objective. This study examines sex and field of study (degree) differences in different aspects of spatial ability and its structure.
Design. We assessed SA by using an on-line gamified battery, which included 10 spatial tests capturing 10 dimensions of spatial ability, among which were mental rotation, spatial visualization, spatial scanning, spatial reasoning, perspective-taking, and mechanical reasoning. The sample consisted of 882 STEM (55% males) and Humanities (20% males) university students in Russia.
Results. Males outperformed females on all assessed components of SA with a small effect size (1–11%). We also found that students from STEM fields outperformed Humanities students on all SA subtests (effect size ranged from 0.2 to 7%). These differences by study choice were not fully explained by the observed over-representation of males in the STEM group. The results of the study suggested no interaction between sex and degree. In other words, on average, males outperformed females, irrespective of whether they were STEM or humanities students; and the STEM advantage was observed for both males and females. The same unifactorial structure of SA was observed in the STEM and Humanities groups.
Conclusion. Our results are consistent with previous research, suggesting sex and study field differences in SA. Longitudinal research is needed to explore the causal mechanisms underscoring these differences.
Keywords: Spatial ability (SA), degree (field of study), gender differences, individual differences, STEM
Background. Psychological tension in the family, along with stress and mental and physical illness, are linked to the reproductive health of parents, as well as to the outcomes of infertility treatments and pregnancy overall.
Objective. To compare stress and negative affect (depression, irritability, and anxiety) in families with induced pregnancies (in-vitro fertilization, IFV) vs. natural pregnancies. The relationship between negative affect and stress in pregnant women was explored in both groups. Finally, the study investigated links between negative affect and partner relationships.
Design. The sample included 308 women and 278 men from couples with natural conception, and 131 women and 102 men from couples with an IVF pregnancy.
Results. Relatively low levels of negative affective states and stress were found in families with both natural and induced pregnancies. Moderate correlations were found between women’s negative affect and their stress level in both groups. Significant correlations were found in both groups between negative psychological states of the spouses, as well as between negative psychological states and warmth/hostility in marital relations.
Conclusion. The results suggest that psychological states, stress levels, and links between psychological states and quality of family relations are similar in families with IVF and those with natural pregnancies. Further longitudinal research is needed to explore the direction of causal links between the psychological states of the spouses, and between their psychological states and the quality of family relations.
Keywords: pregnancy, IVF, infertility, family relationships, stress, psychological states
Background. Genetic conditions and susceptibilities dier from other diseases and health-related risks. Genetic information is shared between blood relatives, and therefore a genetic nding can have implications for the wider family.
Objective. The present study investigates people’s views on issues related to disclosing genetic information to relatives. Specically, the study assesses opinions in relation to two issues: 1) whether people have a moral obligation to share their genetic data with family members; and 2) whether healthcare providers should have a legal obligation to share such data when consent is withheld.
Design. A public engagement event was held based on the real-life court case ofABC vs the UK National Health Service (NHS). Participants were provided with information in three phases: first, about the case; then, with progressively more details of the case; and finally, with other relevant information. After being given each portion of information, the participants were asked to disclose their views on the rights and responsibilities related to the sharing of this information.
Results. The results clearly demonstrate that people hold strong and polarized views regarding condentiality, and the moral and legal duties to disclose genetic information to family members. Even when withholding information could have an adverse impact on the health and life choices of relatives, participants disagreed about the legal obligations for healthcare providers to disclose a person’s genetic information to those relatives.
Conclusion. The results suggest that the issues of privacy and disclosure of genetic information are complex and divisive.
Keywords: genetics, ethics, public engagement, patient con dentiality, duty of care, data access rights
Background. Recent research has suggested a unifactorial structure of spatial ability (SA). However, further studies are needed to replicate this finding in different populations.
Objective. is study aims to explore the factorial structure of SA in samples of 921 Russian and 229 Chinese university students.
Design. A gamified spatial abilities battery was administered to all participants. e battery consists of 10 different domains of SA, including 2D and 3D visualization, mental rotation, spatial pattern assembly, spatial relations, spatial planning, mechanical reasoning, spatial orientation, and spatial decision-making speed and flexibility.
Results. The results of the factor analysis showed a somewhat different pattern for different samples. In the Russian sample, the unifactorial structure, shown previously in a large UK sample (Rimfeld et al., 2017), was replicated. A single factor explained 40% of the variance. In the Chinese sample two factors emerged: the first factor explained 26% of the variance and the second factor, including only mechanical reasoning and cross-sections tests, explained 14%. e results also showed that the Chinese sample significantly outperformed the Russian sample in five out of the 10 tests. Russian students showed better performance in only two of the tests. The effects of all group comparisons were small.
Conclusion. Overall, a similar amount of variance in the 10 tests was explained in the two samples, replicating results from the UK sample. Future research is needed to explain the observed differences in the structure of SA.
Keywords: spatial ability (SA), factorial structure, Russian and Chinese students
Background. Mental fatigue is a state of tiredness, decreased motivation, and increased aversion to performing a task. Mental fatigue is associated with the length of engagement in an activity (time-on-task) and the degree of cognitive e ort required. In addition, mental fatigue can be affected by personality characteristics, such as trait or domain-specific anxiety. ere is a lack of research into associations between mental fatigue and trait anxiety, as well as specific types of anxiety such as math anxiety.
Objective. This study investigates whether the level of mental fatigue manifested in an EEG taken during the performance of a mixed problem-solving task, is associated with math and trait anxiety.
Design. An EEG recording was performed on participants in a resting state with their eyes closed in two runs, both before and after they performed a task. e task consisted of three types of stimuli: arithmetic, algebraic, and lexical.
Results. The results showed that the EEG correlates of fatigue changed be- tween the first and second runs. These changes were not linked with mathematics anxiety. Some significant EEG effects were found for trait anxiety: people with high trait anxiety appeared more aroused and showed less fatigue effects. However, these results did not reach the level of significance after correction for multiple comparisons.
Conclusion. Overall, our results are in line with the motivational control theory, according to which mental fatigue “resets” when a person switches from one task to another. In our study, the experimental paradigm consisted of three types of tasks, a format which might have prevented fatigue. We discuss the implications of the study for further research into the links between anxiety and mental fatigue.
Keywords: Mathematics anxiety (MA), trait anxiety (TA), EEG, mental fatigue
Background. According to numerous studies, people’s development of executive function is a predictor of their successful acquisition of literacy skills. However, the data on the relationship between the development of verbal language and executive function in preschool aged children are insufficient and contradictory.
Objective. The goal of our research was to study the connection between the three main EF components (working memory, inhibition, and cognitive flexibility) and various spoken language skills in children of senior preschool age. It is the first stage of a longitudinal study aimed at understanding the relationship between executive function and language development starting from ages 5–6, and proceeding through elementary school.
Design. Our study sample included 279 children aged 5–6 years (M = 5.6 years) attending a senior group in Moscow kindergartens (139 boys and 140 girls). e study used NEPSY-II diagnostic complex subtests and the Dimensional Change Card Sort (DCCS) test to measure the level of executive functions (working memory, cognitive flexibility, and inhibition). Language development (vocabulary, phonemic awareness, and word generation) was measured by neuropsychological methods (Akhutina, Pylaeva, 2015).
Results. The results of the study showed significant associations between all EF components and language skills development in preschool children. Oral language skills were more closely related to the level of development of verbal working memory and cognitive flexibility than they were to inhibition or visual working memory. Children with low levels of EF development were significantly less able to cope with tasks such as understanding prepositional structures, understanding similar sounding words, and showing verbal fluency, than children with a high EF level. Furthermore, children with normal and high levels of EF development displayed no significant differences in language development. Thus, the study showed that children with a low level of EF have difficulties with language development.
Conclusion. Our results provide important details about understanding the relationship between executive functioning and language development in children of senior preschool age.
Keywords: preschool age, executive function (EF), language, vocabulary, phonemic awareness, word generation
Background. Academic success in a higher education institution requires the ability to process large amounts of information in a relatively short period of time, including having proficiency at a high level of basic knowledge, and an ability to cope with stress. Continual study overload, a competitive environment, and ethical dilemmas (e.g. “How should I deal with human suffering?”, “How should I convey the diagnosis?”, “How should I tell someone that palliative treatment is the only option?”, “What if I make a mistake?”) can all result in anxiety and depression. Research has shown that students who show signs of anxiety and depression may have maladaptive cognitive strategies for processing their emotional experiences. In the medical community, the rules concerning one’s own emotions are, on one hand, determined by specific ethical standards (e.g., the idea that physicians should not show their emotions), and on the other, by the stressful situation itself, which requires taking responsibility for another person’s life. The additional stress point is the need for constant study, which requires a pro-active attitude and learning more and more skills. A significant number of physicians tend to ignore their own emotional experiences, or suppress them. The present study deals with indications of anxiety and depression on the basis of such emotional schemas, which we suggest play the key role in the development of emotional maladaptation in medical students.
Objective. In this study we observe signs of anxiety and depression in medical students and their dependence upon the intensity of dysfunctional emotional schemas.
Design. The number of participants was 400, comprised of students from general medicine (n = 300) and dentistry (n = 100) at the Moscow State University of Medicine and Dentistry.
Methods. We took from the Symptom Check List-90-Revised (Russian version, N.V. Tarabrina N.V.) the subscales related to affective and anxiety disorders: anxiety, depression, interpersonal sensitivity, obsessive-compulsiveness, somatization, and phobic anxiety. We also used 28 items from the Leahy Emotional Schema Scale II (the Russian version, adapted by the authors and Y.A. Kochetkov).
Results. The medical students fell into two groups: those with low and those with high intensity of the dysfunctional schemas. The groups were distinguished by which of Leahy’s basic emotional regulation strategies, either normalizing or pathologizing, they used. The pathologizing students followed strict, maladaptive rules concerning their emotional experiences. Students with intense dysfunctional schemas also demonstrated signs of anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsiveness, and somatization. The students who saw their emotions as normal demonstrated lower levels of dysfunctional emotional schemas. As stated in Leahy’s emotional schemas theory, such students tend to see their emotions as a normal, important, and meaningful part of their daily lives. Analysis has shown that these types of students exhibit lower levels of anxiety, depression, obsessive- compulsiveness, somatization, and interpersonal sensitivity. Regression analysis demonstrated that emotional schemas are significantly related to emotional maladaptation in students. The analysis also allowed us to determine the association of different emotional schemas with the development of anxiety, obsessive-compulsiveness, somatization, and interpersonal sensitivity. Adoption of emotional schemas correlated with the symptoms of depressive and anxiety disorders.
Keywords: emotional schemas, anxiety, depression, medical students, emotional self-regulation
Background. Behavioral genetic findings suggest that complex traits, such as mathematical ability, general cognitive ability (intelligence; g), and spatial ability, are influenced by many common genetic variants of very small effects that operate across the ability continuum. Common genetic variants may also be responsible for cognitive deficits associated with rare genetic syndromes, in which whole genomic regions may be affected. To date, relatively few common genetic variants involved in cognitive traits have been identified, and these only explain a small proportion of variance in these traits.
Objective. The aim of the study was to find associations between mathematics-related traits and single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within chromosomal regions involved in Williams and Prader-Willi disorders. Both disorders are characterized by patterns of weaknesses and strengths in cognitive abilities. Two types of analyses were performed (SNP-based and gene-based), using genotypic and phenotypic data available for 3000 participants from the UK.
Results. SNP-based tests indicated that none of the SNPs passed the demanding multiple testing correction level for any of the phenotypes. Gene-based analysis suggested that 2 pseudo-genes (i.e., GOLGA8I and WHAMMP3) were significantly associated with intelligence, and 1 gene (i.e., TUBGCP5) was significantly associated with mathematics at 16 years of age.
Conclusion. The results are consistent with other findings demonstrating that cognitive traits are influenced by many common genetic variants with very small effects. The results also suggest that a small number of these variants may be located in the chromosomal regions affected in Prader-Willi and Williams syndrome regions.
Keywords: mathematical ability, spatial ability, intelligence, genetic variation, single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)
Background. While various screening systems are used worldwide for early detection of developmental delay (DD), Russia still does not have such a screening system in place, even though a good prognosis for the cognitive development of a child with DD depend strongly on the time of the diagnosis.
Objective. The objective of this study was to create a system to rapidly monitor the mental development of four- to five-year-old Russian children, a system that allows for the use of modern information technologies to obtain reliable results.
Design. This study was carried out with a sample of 1,232 children. For data collection, the multifactor study of mental development tool was used as a part of a so ware complex for longitudinal research. This tool included a much more extensive set of tasks than in traditional tests of abilities, allowing for a wider variation of the factor structure. For the 4-year-olds, 236 tasks were used and 349 for the 5-year-olds. Factor and discriminant analysis were carried out to construct scales for each age group (6–7 points in each), which most accurately predict the diagnosis (Norm/DD). Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to verify the prediction model.
Results. Two scales were elaborated, which coincided with the type of variables combined in each of them regardless of age (for 4-years — simpler and for 5-years — more complex): logical reasoning, motor skills, and general awareness (listed in descending order of contribution to the prediction). SEM confirmed that the selected scales are indicators of the general ability factor, which is the main predictor of the diagnosis.
Conclusions. Two short scales for the rapid diagnosis of DD in preschool children were constructed, allowing the use of computer technology to timely identify the risk group among 4- and 5-year-olds with high sensitivity and specificity of the forecast (not lower than 95%).
Keywords: Screening, developmental delay, construction of scales, SEM
Background. Exams such as the SAT, ACT, and GCSE are used to give an account of educational outcomes and provide a unified criterion for university admission. The Unified State Exam (USE) aims to fulfill these functions in Russia. All Russian students take two compulsory USE exams, mathematics and Russian, at the end of their school education.
Objective. Variability in the mathematics and Russian USE scores is vast, both across and within schools. Our study investigated potential sources of this variability.
Design. The sample included 196 students from regular schools (non-selected students) and 306 students from schools with advanced mathematical curriculum (selected students). The mathematical ability (numerical representation, mathematical fluency), intelligence, basic cognitive functions (working memory, reaction time), and mathematical self-efficacy of the students were assessed. We applied structural equation modeling to estimate the proportion of variability in the mathematics and Russian USE scores explained by cognitive predictors and mathematical self-efficacy.
Results. In the whole sample, cognitive predictors and mathematical self-efficacy explained 54% of the variation in the mathematics USE scores and 30% of the variation in the Russian USE scores. These effects diminished after the data were analyzed in two groups separately, suggesting that the associations between predictors and exam scores were to a large extent accounted for by group differences (students from regular and specialized schools).
Conclusion. The students from the schools with an advanced mathematical curriculum exhibited better cognitive performance, appraised their mathematical abilities higher, and achieved higher mathematics and Russian USE scores, compared to the students from regular schools. Within the groups, cognitive and non-cognitive predictors explained a small part of the variation of the mathematics and Russian USE scores.
Keywords: academic achievement, Unified State Exam, mathematical ability, intelligence, number sense
Background. Personality is not simply an end product, but rather, it is a process. Therefore, empirical work on personal meaning-building should examine the genesis of meaning and provide a content-based description of personality in terms of personality traits. Such a description suggests a systemic view of personality, where the meaning-based approach is supplemented with the definition of personality traits. The value and meaning potential of personality encompasses three dimensions: worldview, behavior, and cognition.
Objective. The aim of this study is to identify the properties of personality, reflecting the features of polar strategies of meaning formation in acmeological terms by age, gender, and professional characteristics.
Design. The present study considers the influence of various acmeological factors on meaning-building and concentrates on its two polar strategies: adaptive and developing strategies. We developed nine bipolar scales of personal traits with sublevels by applying the semantic differential technique. In total, there were 145 participants in the study. Participants were grouped according to three criteria: age, gender, and profession.
Results. The obtained indices of meaning-building strategies did not coincide in all the differentiated groups, which clearly speaks in favor of acmeological dynamics of the respondents’ personal profiles. We stratified the sample according to the mean score of the basic marker of “life meaningfulness,” which enabled us to establish differences in characteristics of actual polar strategies of meaning-building. e respondents who did not fall into either of the two groups are “between the poles.” They often have an under- developed meaning-building strategy as a result of poorly formed ways of organization and actualization of personal meanings or the presence of a transitional form of situational conceptual initiations.
Conclusion. The personal profiles that were identified represent multifactor models of the personal value and meaning dimensions, which can predict actual meaning-building strategies using semantic differential scales and indicators (“life meaningfulness” from the Purpose-in-Life test) and help researchers to reduce the number of techniques employed in their studies.
Keywords: personality, meaning, meaning-building strategy, development, adaptation, polarity, semantic scale
Background. Gender differences exist in almost every aspect of our lives. Individuals have an array of different social expectations with regard to behaviors, communication, appearance, attitudes, and social roles, but these expectations tend to be based on whether the individual is male or female. Currently, many social studies have been done with the help of virtual reality technologies. They have been effectively applied to the study of many social phenomena such as nonverbal communication, social skills training, social anxiety rehabilitation, etc. Recently considerable attention has been paid to issue of gender differences during social interaction with the virtual partners, avatars. However, the question of gender differencesduring interactions with avatars of diverse ethnic appearances has seldom been studied.
Objective. The goal of this study was to investigate the gender peculiarities of interaction with avatars of different ethnic appearances. We used the CAVE virtual reality system to study gender differences in interpersonal distances which were maintained with avatars.
Design. We designed four three-dimensional virtual scenes with avatars of four different ethnic appearances. They were avatars of Slavic, Asian, North Caucasian, and African appearance. All the avatars were male. e participants (who all identified as Russians) were immersed in virtual environments with the help of the CAVE virtual reality system. Their task was to approach the avatar, present herself/himself in any way they wanted, and give instructions for the work. During the task the interpersonal distances between the participants and the avatars were measured. After leaving the CAVE, the participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire assessing the Presence effect.
Results. The results showed gender differences in how much interpersonal distance was maintained: women preferred to keep shorter interpersonal distances with their virtual partners than men did. Moreover, the results showed the impact of ethnic appearance on interpersonal distances. Women approached the avatars of their own ethnic group more closely and kept further away from the avatars of other ethnic groups. Unlike the women, the men stayed the same distance away from the avatars of different ethnic groups. Both gender groups kept equally far away from the avatar of African appearance. Gender differences were also revealed in the participants’ estimates of the Presence effect.
Keywords: gender differences, interethnic interaction, interpersonal distance, avatar, Presence effect, CAVE virtual reality technology
Background. The need for psychological and pedagogical support for families in the upbringing of hearing-impaired children makes it imperative to develop innovative methods and an effective model of interaction between the family and a special needs educational institution, to improve parental competence.
Objective. To study the psychological content of parental competence (its cognitive, value-motivational; emotional and behavioral components) and to evaluate parental competence through psychological and pedagogical support for families in the upbringing of hearing-impaired children.
Design. Eighty-seven families with hearing-impaired children from a special needs educational institution in Kursk, Russian Federation, participated in the experimental study. e researchers took measurements at two time points, baseline and followup. At baseline, we made a diagnostic assessment of the psychological content of parental competence. At followup, we evaluated the development of pa- rental competence resulting from the psychological and pedagogical support for these families.
Results. The cognitive component was characterized by predominant unanimity between the parents in the upbringing of hearing-impaired children, and a partnership relationship in communicating with them.
The emotional component was represented by the absence of difficulties in understanding the causes of the children’s emotional state and an orientation towards the child’s emotional state during interactions or physical contact.
Terminal values (such as health, happy family life) and instrumental values (such as responsibility, honesty) were predominant in the value-motivational component.
The behavioral component displayed a predominance of the authoritative style in upbringing, whereby parents realized their important role in the development of a child’s personality and recognized the right of children to self-development. At the same time, the authoritarian style was still significant.
Conclusion. A model for psychological and pedagogical support of families in the upbringing of hearing-impaired children was developed, tested, and found to be effective.
Keywords: parental competence, psychological and pedagogical support, upbringing, hearing-impaired children