Cognitive therapy neural networks are increasingly well known

Cognitive therapy neural networks are changed bottom-up in antidepressant therapy and top-down in cognitive therapy

Hypothetical time course of the changes to amygdala and prefrontal function that are associated with antidepressant medication and cognitive therapy, illustrating major cognitive therapy neural networks

Hypothetical time course of the changes to amygdala and prefrontal function that are associated with antidepressant medication and cognitive therapy.

a | During acute depression, amygdala activity is increased (red) and prefrontal activity is decreased (blue) relative to activity in these regions in healthy individuals.

b | Cognitive therapy (CT) effectively exercises the prefrontal cortex (PFC), yielding increased inhibitory function of this region.

c | Antidepressant medication (ADM) targets amygdala function more directly, decreasing its activity.

d | After ADM or CT, amygdala function is decreased and prefrontal function is increased. The double-headed arrow between the amygdala and the PFC represents the bidirectional homeostatic influences that are believed to operate healthy individuals.[1]

Cognitive therapy neural networks –
– work together (along the black lines) to produce depressed symptoms
– feed back the results (along the gray line) to generate depressed symptoms in the future

Information processing in the cognitive model of depression illustrates cognitive therapy neural networks, showing feedback loops

Information processing in the cognitive model of depression.

  • Activation of depressive self-referential schemas by environmental triggers in a vulnerable individual is both the initial and penultimate element of the cognitive model.
  • The initial activation of a schema triggers biased attention, biased processing and biased memory for emotional internal or external stimuli.
  • As a result, incoming information is filtered so that schema-consistent elements in the environment are over-represented.
  • The resulting presence of depressive symptoms then reinforces the self-referential schema (shown by a grey arrow), which further strengthens the individual’s belief in its depressive elements.
  • This sequence triggers the onset and then maintenance of depressive symptoms.[2]

Untreated cognitive therapy neural networks take negative schema information and fan it out, and add in overgeneral negative information

Cognitive functioning in a healthy individual vs. in a depressed individual illustrates functionality in major cognitive therapy neural networks

Cognitive functioning in a healthy (a) or depressed (b) individual.

  • In a depressed individual, a negative self-schema and an over-general mode of processing concur to automatically prime and activate information that is congruent with the negative self-schema, via a cognitive interlock (resulting in rumination), biased memory and attention.
  • In a healthy individual, a concrete mode of processing counteracts these automatic activations.

Cognitive therapy neural networks information flow (in the diagrams above) maps directly to neural regions (in the pictures below)

Brain networks involved in various cognitive functions of cognitive therapy neural networks

Brain networks involved in
(a) self-referential processes and rumination,
(b) cognitive interlock and mood congruent processing,
(c) episodic buffer,
(d) attention bias,
(e) memory bias,
(f) overgeneral processing.

dmPC: dorsomedial prefrontal cortex,
vmPFC: ventromedial prefrontal cortex,
mPFC: medial prefrontal cortex,
iPFC: inferior prefrontal cortex,
mOFC: medial orbitofrontal cortex,
aOFC: anterior orbitofrontal cortex,
dlPFC: dorsolateral prefrontal cortex,
aITC: anterior inferotemporal cortex,
STG: superior temporal gyrus,
AnG: angular gyrus,
Ins: insula,
ACC: anterior cingulate cortex,
PCC: posterior cingulate cortex,
PCun: precuneus,
Rsp: retrosplenial cortex,
dmTh: dorsomedial thalamus,
HPC: hippocampus,
Amy: amygdala,
Hab: habenula,
Acc: nucleus accumbens,
Cd: caudate,
Pu: putamen,
Re: nucleus reuniens,
DG dentate gyrus of the hippocampus.[3]


  1. DeRubeis, Robert J., Greg J. Siegle, and Steven D. Hollon. “Cognitive therapy versus medication for depression: treatment outcomes and neural mechanisms.” Nature Reviews Neuroscience 9.10 (2008): 788-796.
  2. Disner, Seth G., et al. “Neural mechanisms of the cognitive model of depression.” Nature Reviews Neuroscience 12.8 (2011): 467-477.
  3. Belzung, Catherine, Paul Willner, and Pierre Philippot. “Depression: from psychopathology to pathophysiology.” Current opinion in neurobiology 30 (2015): 24-30.

Early psychiatric diagnosis is rare, but possible, and kind

Early psychiatric diagnosis is all too rare, but it’s possible, and it’s kind

Many disorders begin early in life, and early psychiatric diagnosis is possible [1]

Early psychiatric diagnosis is all too rare

Median delays among cases eventually making contact ranged from 3.0 to 30.0 years for anxiety disorders, from 1.0 to 14.0 years for mood disorders, and from 6.0 to 18.0 years for substance use disorders.

…early-onset disorders were associated with lower probabilities of initial treatment contact in most countries. One explanation for this finding may be that minors need the help of parents or other adults to seek treatment, and recognition is often low among these adults unless symptoms are severe… In addition, child and adolescent- onset mental disorders may be associated with normalization of symptoms or development of coping strategies (e.g., social withdrawal in social phobias) that interfere with help-seeking later in life.

…our earlier analyses of the U.S. data revealed that even those with severe and impairing disorders have substantial delays in initial treatment contact…[2]

Young people are less likely to seek help if they:

  • are experiencing suicidal thoughts and depressive symptoms;
  • hold negative attitudes toward seeking help or have had negative past experiences with sources of help; or
  • hold beliefs that they should be able to sort out their own mental health problems on their own.[3]

Early psychiatric diagnosis is possible

Initial treatment contacts appear to be fastest for mood disorders, perhaps because these disorders have been targeted in some countries by educational campaigns, primary care quality improvement programs, and treatment advances… On the other hand, the longer delays for anxiety disorders may be due to the earlier age of onset of some conditions (e.g., phobias), fewer associated impairments, and even fear of providers or treatments involving social interactions (e.g., talking therapies, group settings, waiting rooms)…

Women have been shown in prior research to be faster than men at translating nonspecific feelings of distress into conscious recognition that they have emotional problems, perhaps explaining the significantly higher rates of initial treatment contact by women in some countries…

More recent cohorts were also significantly more likely to make eventual treatment contact, perhaps suggesting a positive outcome of programs recently attempted in some countries to destigmatize and increase awareness of mental illness, of screening and outreach initiatives, of the introduction and direct-to-consumer promotion of new treatments, and of expansion of insurance programs…[2]

Young people are more inclined to seek help for mental health problems if they:

  • have some knowledge about mental health issues and sources of help;
  • feel emotionally competent to express their feelings; and
  • have established and trusted relationships with potential help providers.[3]

Early psychiatric diagnosis is kind

Lifetime Prevalence of Disorders

Any anxiety disorder
Any mood disorder
Any impulse-control disorder
Any substance use disorder
Any disorder
28.8%
20.8%
24.8%
14.6%
46.4%

[4]

Depression is a major human blight. Globally, it is responsible for more ‘years lost’ to disability than any other condition. This is largely because so many people suffer from it — some 350 million, according to the World Health Organization — and the fact that it lasts for many years. (When ranked by disability and death combined, depression comes ninth behind prolific killers such as heart disease, stroke and HIV.) [5]

…preclinical, epidemiologic, and trial data… suggest that even milder disorders, if left untreated, lead to greater severity, additional psychiatric comorbidity, and negative social and occupational functioning…[2]


  1. Merikangas, Kathleen Ries, et al. “Lifetime prevalence of mental disorders in US adolescents: results from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication–Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A).” Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 49.10 (2010): 980-989.
  2. Wang, P. S., et al. “Delay and failure in treatment seeking after first onset of mental disorders in the World Health Organization’s World Mental Health Survey Initiative.” World psychiatry: official journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) 6.3 (2007): 177-185.
  3. Rickwood, Debra J., Frank P. Deane, and Coralie J. Wilson. “When and how do young people seek professional help for mental health problems.” Med J Aust 187.7 Suppl (2007): S35-S39.
  4. Kessler, Ronald C., et al. “Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication.” Archives of general psychiatry 62.6 (2005): 593-602.
  5. Smith, Kerri. “Mental health: a world of depression.” Nature 515.7526 (2014): 181.

Anger in Psalms is raw, and reminds us to forgive

An angry face, illustrating anger in Psalms[1]

Anger in Psalms is undisguised and natural

In some of the Psalms the spirit of hatred which strikes us in the face is like the heat from a furnace mouth.

Examples… can be found all over the Psalter, but perhaps the worst is in Psalm 109. The poet prays that an ungodly man may rule over his enemy… (v. 5). When the enemy is tried, let him be convicted and sentenced, ‘and let his prayer be turned into sin’ (v. 6). This again means, I think, not his prayers to God, but his supplications to a human judge, which are to make things all the hotter for him (double the sentence because he begged for it to be halved). May his days be few, may his job be given to someone else (v. 7). When he is dead may his orphans be beggars (v. 9). May he look in vain for anyone in the world to pity him (v. 11). Let God always remember against him the sins of his parents (v. 13).

Even more devilish in one verse is the otherwise beautiful Psalm 137 where a blessing is pronounced on anyone who will snatch up a Babylonian baby and beat its brains out against the pavement (v. 9).

Ancient and oriental cultures are in many ways more conventional, more ceremonious, and more courteous than our own. But their restraints came in different places. Hatred did not need to be disguised for the sake of social decorum or for fear anyone would accuse you of a neurosis. We therefore see it in its ‘wild’ or natural condition.

It seemed to me that, seeing in them hatred undisguised, saw also the natural result of injuring a human being.

Anger in Psalms is not to encourage our revenge

The reaction of the Psalmists to injury, though profoundly natural, is profoundly wrong.

‘Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart thou shalt not avenge or bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,’ says Leviticus (19:17, 18).

In Exodus we read, ‘If thou seest the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden thou shaft surely help with him,’ and ‘if thou meet thine enemy’s ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him’ (23:4, 5).

‘Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth’ (Proverbs 24:17).

And I shall never forget my surprise when I first discovered that St Paul’s ‘If thine enemy hunger, give him bread’, etc., is a direct quotation from the same book (Proverbs 25:21).

Anger in Psalms reminds us we need to forgive

There is no use talking as if forgiveness were easy.

We all know the old joke, ‘You’ve given up smoking once; I’ve given it up a dozen times.’

In the same way I could say of a certain man, ‘Have I forgiven him for what he did that day? I’ve forgiven him more times than I can count.’

For we find that the work of forgiveness has to be done over and over again. We forgive, we mortify our resentment; a week later some chain of thought carries us back to the original offence and we discover the old resentment blazing away as if nothing had been done about it at all. We need to forgive our brother seventy times seven not only for 490 offences but for one offence.

Anger in Psalms reflects that sin is hateful to God

If the Jews cursed more bitterly than the Pagans this was, I think, at least in part because they took right and wrong more seriously. For if we look at their railings we find they are usually angry not simply because these things have been done to them but because these things are manifestly wrong, are hateful to God as well as to the victim. Sometimes it comes into the foreground; as in Psalm 58: 9, 10, ‘The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance … so that a man shall say … Doubtless there is a God that judgeth the earth.’

For we can still see, in the worst of their maledictions, how these old poets were, in a sense, near to God. Not, we trust, that God looks upon their enemies as they do: He ‘desireth not the death of a sinner’. But doubtless He has for the sin of those enemies just the implacable hostility which the poets express. Implacable? Yes, not to the sinner but to sin. It will not be tolerated nor condoned, no treaty will be made with it.

Against all this the ferocious parts of the Psalms serve as a reminder that there is in the world such a thing as wickedness and that it (if not its perpetrators) is hateful to God.[2]


  1. “Anger.” http://www.apa.org/topics/anger/. Accessed 10 June 2017.
  2. Lewis, Clive Staples. Reflections on the Psalms. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1958, pp. 17-28.

Breeds vary behaviorally: in sociability, calmness, trainability, and boldness

This ruby Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Tabasco is an example of how breeds vary behaviorally, in sociability, calmness, trainability, and boldness

A ruby Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Tabasco [1]

BreedSociable
52%-126%
Calm
56%-156%
Trainable
67%-122%
Bold
63%-123%
Irish Setter126%109%111%89%
Gordon Setter123%104%108%96%
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel122%111%104%89%
Flat-Coated Retriever120%116%116%123%
Irish Wolfhound120%138%67%86%
Bearded Collie120%103%104%102%
Bernese Mountain Dog119%116%93%103%
Pointer117%96%109%110%
Spanish Greyhound117%74%84%63%
Labrador Retriever117%112%108%115%
Newfoundland115%138%93%113%
Pug115%118%99%116%
Beagle114%102%102%104%
Leonberger114%98%91%106%
Shetland Sheepdog114%99%110%91%
Landseer114%156%104%121%
Whippet114%114%101%94%
German Pinscher113%56%109%93%
Vizsla112%86%116%100%
Coton de Tulear112%105%89%90%
Golden Retriever112%106%102%106%
Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier111%96%104%104%
German Shorthaired Pointer111%106%117%123%
Eurasier111%113%84%85%
Airedale Terrier110%120%102%107%
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog109%96%105%94%
Havanese108%114%102%95%
Small Munsterlander107%89%106%105%
Miniature Schnauzer107%113%105%90%
Saint Bernard107%110%78%110%
Chinese Shar-Pei107%101%79%76%
English Setter107%98%84%82%
Collie106%95%102%86%
French Bulldog106%117%91%112%
Bulldog106%115%93%108%
Shih Tzu105%116%90%109%
Dogue de Bordeaux105%118%80%96%
Old English Sheepdog105%101%101%114%
Beauceron105%84%113%78%
Brittany105%83%82%90%
Weimaraner105%91%114%84%
Rhodesian Ridgeback103%106%96%86%
Ibizan Hound103%75%97%81%
Australian Shepherd103%91%118%101%
Staffordshire Bull Terrier103%122%103%107%
Lhasa Apso102%114%73%91%
Dalmatian102%87%96%107%
Shiba Inu101%96%103%79%
Pyrenean Shepherd100%89%110%80%
West Highland White Terrier100%97%95%103%
Welsh Terrier100%86%122%116%
Miniature Dachshund100%99%101%83%
Siberian Husky100%123%84%109%
Tibetan Terrier100%108%93%107%
English Cocker Spaniel100%88%105%102%
Cairn Terrier99%105%91%100%
Great Dane98%102%93%99%
German Spitz96%75%83%106%
Appenzeller Sennenhund96%71%107%90%
White Swiss Shepherd96%89%109%84%
Boxer96%100%106%112%
Alaskan Malamute95%140%73%94%
Giant Schnauzer95%110%113%118%
Bavarian Mountain Hound95%99%103%103%
Yorkshire Terrier95%80%87%100%
Miniature Pinscher95%76%103%110%
Pekingese94%114%84%104%
Border Collie94%91%117%99%
Wolfspitz94%111%102%100%
Border Terrier94%106%106%114%
Dachshund93%96%100%101%
Doberman Pinscher93%78%105%101%
Rottweiler93%114%104%106%
Bull Terrier93%89%85%116%
Poodle93%101%105%99%
American Staffordshire Terrier92%116%104%108%
Hovawart92%105%110%111%
German Wirehaired Pointer89%116%115%113%
American Cocker Spaniel89%114%85%109%
Parson Russell Terrier88%88%115%113%
Entlebucher Mountain Dog88%90%117%112%
Miniature Poodle88%90%101%87%
Briard87%85%104%85%
Anatolian Shepherd Dog86%114%79%79%
Jack Russell Terrier85%84%107%112%
Polish Lowland Sheepdog84%79%119%96%
German Hunting Terrier84%69%100%120%
Wirehaired Dachshund84%103%104%108%
Standard Schnauzer84%83%112%105%
Irish Terrier83%111%102%115%
Belgian Malinois82%77%113%108%
German Shepherd Dog81%93%105%110%
Kromfohrlander79%84%115%83%
Maltese79%83%85%91%
Chihuahua76%76%97%91%
Perro de Presa Canario76%72%93%99%
German Bracke60%95%98%82%
Akita52%110%95%96%

[2]


  1. Anthony, Michele. “Services.” micheleanthonytherapy.com/services/. Accessed 7 June 2017.
  2. Turcsán, Borbála, Enikő Kubinyi, and Ádám Miklósi. “Trainability and boldness traits differ between dog breed clusters based on conventional breed categories and genetic relatedness.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science 132.1 (2011): 61-70. Appendix A. Supplementary data.

Assertion works well when you’re quick and nonjudgmental, and you listen

Diagram on enlarging the “No Problem Area” with various skills, showing where assertion works

Enlarging the “No Problem Area” with various skills

Assertion works sometimes when you’re just quick and nonjudgmental

John, I’m glad to have the opportunity to talk with you. Okay, Doc, what’s up?
Do you remember about a month ago, you came in with a cold and I saw you? Yes, I do.
Well, I learned that you returned after I left and complained to the on-call nurse about how you’d been treated. Did I? I don’t really remember.
Well, I just wanted you to know I was annoyed by your complaining, since I had given you the opportunity to tell your concerns at that visit.
(I-MESSAGE)
Sorry, Doc. I didn’t think that what I did would bother anyone.
Okay. I just wanted you to be aware.  

 

Good morning, Carrie. I was just talking with your Mom about your diabetes. She’s quite worried. She’s always worrying. I’m doing okay.
I’m sorry, Carrie, but I have a problem with what you just said.
(I-MESSAGE)
What problem?
You said that you were doing okay. I disagree, and I’m concerned because you’re not testing your sugar levels or following your diet, and that has resulted in two hospitalizations. If you are to stay out of the hospital, I need your cooperation.
(I-MESSAGE)
 

 

Assertion works more reliably when you also listen

I have a problem with your taking so much time before letting me administer your shots each time. I’m afraid I won’t be able to get to my other patients.
(I-MESSAGE)
I really hate those shots. They hurt a lot, and I’ve always been a baby about pain.
You’ve always been afraid of pain, and these shots really hurt.
(SHIFTING GEARS WITH ACTIVE LISTENING)
 

 

I have a problem when you say you don’t walk every day. I’m afraid the circulation in your legs will get worse, and that would make me feel I haven’t done my job well.
(I-MESSAGE)
It takes too much time. Right now I’m swamped with work at the office.
It sounds like your work has a higher priority right now, so there’s no time for walking.
(SHIFTING GEARS WITH ACTIVE LISTENING)
 

 Assertion works amazingly well sometimes if you just try it

One morning the door swung open and in marched a resolute five-year-old boy with a diagnosis of leukemia. He was followed by four nurses, one of whom said, “This is David.” I was surprised to see so many nurses and was about to ask why, when one of them lifted David to the table. Suddenly there was a mass of struggling women: “Got his leg? I have his arm. Watch out, he bites… ” and the room was filled with David screaming and screaming.

A little arm projected from under the white mound of their bodies. As it was smaller than the rest, I drew blood from it, assuming that it was David’s. I said, “I have it,”…

…one by one the nurses, wrinkled and sweating, got up, and left David alone and quiet on the table. He was watching me.

My hands were shaking so badly that I could not transfer David’s blood from the syringe into the test tube. I brought my hands up against my chest to steady the transfer.

David said, “Why are your hands shaking?”

…I found myself saying, “I’m shaking because you yelled so loud you frightened me.”

A few days later I was again in the treatment room at dawn. As I glanced anxiously over the list of patients, my eye caught David’s name. I asked that he be called first, as I wanted to have it over with. The door swung open, and in walked David, followed by four nurses.

Waving the nurses back, he climbed up on the table and extended his arm to me. “There,” he said, “I won’t scare you this time.”

And he never “scared” me again.


  1. Gordon, Thomas, and W. Sterling Edwards. Making the patient your partner: Communication skills for doctors and other caregivers. ABC-CLIO, 1997, pp. 104, 113-117.

Reflective listening is interacting to understand

Reflective listening is interacting to understand[1]

Reflective listening reflects the speaker’s attitudes

Rogers offers two guidelines for clarifications. First, they must be crafted exclusively out of what the client has already said, and second, they must clarify an insight that the client has already had.

Later, Rogers refers to a session transcript that shows how a therapist… specifically mirrors the client’s attitudes, rather than the client’s actual words. In this transcript, the therapist rarely says anything that could be construed as a reflection of the client’s speech.

Rogers and Wallen contend that… only two therapist moves are needed: simple acceptance of the client’s remarks with statements like ‘‘I see’’ or ‘‘yes,’’ and reflection of feeling.

Rogers and Wallen sometimes refers to the client’s feelings, but at other times to so-called emotionalized attitudes. For example, Rogers and Wallen give the example of a client who feels his wife is inconsiderate, and suggests the reflection: ‘‘You feel that she is pretty selfish.’’ This is not exactly a feeling per se, and appears to be an example of what Rogers and Wallen mean by emotionalized attitude.

Reflective listening reflects the listener’s empathy

…the therapist’s attitude is also vitally important. Reflection of feeling, then, is not a technique, but a method of implementing client-centered attitudes of acceptance and understanding.

True empathy, Rogers implies, is inherently provisional. In this respect, reflections of feeling are verbalizations of thoughts that tend to naturally enter the mind of a therapist who maintains an empathic attitude.

When the optimal attitude is achieved, the relationship between the therapist’s inner experience and his or her verbalizations becomes nearly seamless. The therapist simply gives voice to her or his thoughts, which are already empathic.

Rogerian empathy… is an ideal state of exquisitely sensitive moment-to-moment attunement to the client’s flow of experience that is so thoroughly immersive that Rogers goes so far as to call it ‘‘trancelike.’’

He reconceptualizes empathy as an iterative relational process in which the therapist participates, rather than a process occurring within the mind of the therapist. Empathy is a way of being with another person.

Reflective listening is closer understanding

First, every reflection must include an implied question to the client: Is what I am saying now precisely accurate for you? Second, every reflection must include an implied invitation: If what I am saying is not precisely accurate for you, help me revise my perception so that it is closer to your own.

…he suggests that reflections be renamed ‘‘testing understandings’’ or ‘‘checking perceptions.’’ These phrasings are attempts to further transform the reflection of feeling into an interactional concept. Reflection, here, refers not to the therapist’s speech itself, but purely to how it is experienced by the client.

What is to the therapists a messy series of rough approximations appears to the client as a seamless surface of understanding.

Reflective listening recommendations

  1. Reflections should be directed to the emotional essence of what the client has expressed, and/or to the client’s felt sense of their emerging experiencing, rather than to concrete issues.
  2. Reflections must congruently implement therapist attitudes of acceptance and empathy.
  3. Reflections are part of an empathic dialogue. Accordingly, they must include the implicit invitation for the client to check their accuracy with the client’s inner felt experiencing, and to correct them if needed.
  4. Reflections may be safest when sculpted out of material drawn from the client’s remarks, and when they further develop insights that have already begun to emerge in the client, rather than referring to feelings and attitudes that the client has not yet expressed. However, if the empathic dialogue has advanced to the point that client and therapist are in a shared altered state of consciousness (=empathy trance), therapist understandings may emerge naturally as remarks that may appear unrelated to what the client has explicitly said.
  5. To be in a position to effectively use reflections, the therapist may cultivate an empathic frame of mind. If this underlying attitude is absent, reflections may be incongruent and, therefore, are unlikely to be effective.
  6. Reflections are best couched in provisional rather than declarative form [reflections are best when they’re tentative, not authoritative].
  7. Reflections should not interrupt the flow of the client’s process.[2]

  1. Minarik, Susan K. “Can You Hear Me Now? A Positive Guide to Listening Well.” Positive-Living-Now, 4 Sep. 2010, www.positive-living-now.com/can-you-hear-me-now-a-positive-guide-to-listening-well/. Accessed 1 June 2017.
  2. Arnold, Kyle. “Behind the mirror: Reflective listening and its tain in the work of Carl Rogers.” The Humanistic Psychologist 42.4 (2014): 354-369.

Enduring bonds tend to form in sexual relationships

Couple in bed illustrating that enduring bonds tend to form in sexual relationships[1]

Enduring bonds likely involve reproduction, attachment, and caregiving

It is likely that three basic behavioral systems were involved and may still be characteristic of presentday human sexual pair bonds: the reproductive, attachment, and caregiving systems.

The reproductive system may achieve its functional outcome without an enduring bond being involved.

In the human case it is obvious that mating can occur without a bond forming, but when pair bonding does occur, the caregiving system is likely to be involved, with the male concerned with the care and protection of children either directly, or indirectly through care and protection of his mate, or both. …it makes sense to suppose that the female may also strive to give care to her partner in appropriate ways, if only in acknowledgement of the care she needs from him. Furthermore, various societies tend to foster enduring bonds through marriage customs… thus backing up biological predispositions to ensure that young are cared for and not merely produced.

In the course of a long-term sexual relationship, whether in customary marriage or not, attachment of each partner to the other tends also to be built up, the attachment and caregiving components interacting to make for a reciprocal give-and-take relationship.

Enduring bonds often start with sexual attraction, and later include caregiving and attachment

Although in many cultures sexual attraction may be the most important component at the start of a relationship, those that depend entirely on the sexual component are likely to be short-lived. As the relationship persists, the caregiving and attachment components are likely to become important also and tend to sustain the bond even in cases in which sexual interest has waned.

In many marriages there are components other than the three fundamental components that I have emphasized so far. For example, spouses may be professional or business partners, or they may spend more than the usual time together because they enjoy sharing the same leisure time interests and activities. These and other components of the relationship with the partner in a marriage or quasi-marriage are not essential, however, and may or may not contribute to its persistence over time.

Enduring bonds tend to persist long after a pair is separated

Much of the research into human sexual pair bonds has focused on the break-up of the relationship – with separation or divorce and adjustment afterwards. It is clear that the attachment component is long lasting, tending to persist long after the pair has been parted, and even when the parting was much desired. There is a tendency to miss the partner and to feel lonely.[2]


  1. “You won’t believe how sleeping together or apart can affect your health, relationship.” mid-day.com, 6 Mar. 2017, www.mid-day.com/articles/you-wont-believe-how-sleeping-together-or-apart-can-affect-your-health-relationship/17345199. Accessed 30 May 2017.
  2. Ainsworth, Mary D. Salter. “Attachments and other affectional bonds across the life cycle.” Attachment across the life cycle, edited by Colin Murray Parkes et al, Routledge, 1991, pp. 33-51.

People grow alike naturally, as the people with less power change

A little girl looks at her mom, showing one big way that people grow alike naturally

A little girl looks at her mom, showing one big way that people grow alike naturally [1]

People grow alike temporarily while they’re together

…people in close relationships become more similar to each other over time. For example, relationship partners converge in their values and attitudes, verbal and social skills, cognitive complexity and mental abilities, eating and drinking habits, and perceptions of others.

People express emotion through facial, vocal, and postural behavior, and quickly and automatically detect and interpret the emotional expressions of others.

Moreover, people are quite susceptible to the social transmission of emotion. Research on emotional contagion has shown that people automatically mimic facial expressions, vocalizations, and postures when they interact with another person, which leads both individuals to experience similar emotions. Studies of empathy find that people take the perspective of others and vicariously feel the emotions that the other person feels.

People grow alike over time emotionally

In the present study, we ask: Do relationship partners also converge emotionally over time?

The development of emotional similarity would benefit relationships in at least three ways. First, because emotions are modes of relating to the environment, emotional similarity would coordinate relationship partners’ thoughts and behaviors and help them respond to potential opportunities or threats. Second, when two people feel similar emotions, they more accurately perceive each other’s intentions and motivations. Third, emotional similarity would be reinforcing to relationship partners; when two people feel similar emotions, their own feelings and appraisals are validated.

…our three studies offer strong evidence that emotional convergence does occur…

…the current research shows how emotions help individuals build and maintain long-term, intimate relationships. Our research shows that close relationships shape emotional responses in fundamental ways. We become emotionally similar, both in experience and display, to those people with whom we are intertwined.

People grow alike in ways that help the relationship

…we hypothesized that emotional similarity would benefit close relationships. The evidence for this hypothesis was strong and consistent across studies.

…this similarity would help coordinate the thoughts and behaviors of the relationship partners, increase their mutual understanding, and foster their social cohesion.

…relationships whose partners were more emotionally similar were more cohesive and less likely to dissolve.

People grow alike regardless of whether the changes help them personally or hurt them personally

…our findings shed light on processes by which relationship partners “transmit” emotional disorders such as depression or anxiety. For example, children of depressed parents are often themselves depressed, and individuals who live with a depressed person can become depressed. The social transmission of emotion may not be limited to clinical levels of emotionality, or even limited to negative emotion. The transmission of emotional disorders can now be understood as a special case of a much broader and inherently normal emotion process in close relationships.

…emotional convergence may be due to a convergence in appraisal styles. Ways of appraising events lead to specific emotions, just as specific emotional dispositions lead to ways of appraising social events. For example, people who view an event as uncontrollable and dangerous tend to experience fear in response to that event. When individuals become close, they might converge in appraisal styles, which in turn leads to greater similarity in emotional responses. Consistent with this idea, close friends are similar in the cognitive dimensions they use to describe themselves and others.

The people with less power change the most

…relationship partners with less power made more of the change necessary for convergence to occur.

These findings paint a striking picture of the emotional lives of powerful and powerless people. The emotional lives of low-power individuals… seem more variable, changing across relationship contexts.[2]


  1. “Child & Parent Place (CAPP).” www.lutherwood.ca/mentalhealth/capp. Accessed 29 May 2017.
  2. Anderson, Cameron, Dacher Keltner, and Oliver P. John. “Emotional Convergence Between People Over Time.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 84.5 (2003): 1054-1068.

Petting dogs, and being touched by dogs, builds bonds we need

A ruby cavalier puppy lying on his master’s lap is a classic example of petting dogs

A ruby cavalier puppy lying on his master’s lap [1]

Bonding is necessary for normal development

The long-term discovery from Harlow’s work was that… isolated monkeys developed relatively normally physically, but abnormally socially. They did not interact with other monkeys well: terrified, they huddled in the corner when another young monkey was put into their cage.

Social interaction and personal contact is more than desirable: it is necessary for normal development.

Months later, Harlow tried to rehabilitate those monkeys whose early isolation so malformed them. He found that the best remedy was regular contact with young normal monkeys, whom he came to call “therapy monkeys,” in play. This restored some of the isolates to more normal social actors.

Petting dogs brings measurable changes that are very good

Simply petting a dog can reduce an overactive sympathetic nervous system within minutes: a racing heart, high blood pressure, the sweats. Levels of endorphins (hormones that make us feel good) and oxytocin and prolactin (those hormones involved in social attachment) go up when we’re with dogs. Cortisol (stress hormone) levels go down.

There is good reason to believe that living with a dog provides the social support which correlates with reduced risk for various diseases, from cardiovascular disease to diabetes to pneumonia, and better rates of recovery from those diseases we do get.

In many cases, the dog receives nearly the same effect. Human company can lower a dog’s cortisol level; petting can calm a racing heart.

Bonding with a pet can do the work that long-term use of prescribed drugs or cognitive behavioral therapy do.

Petting dogs is the first thing we reach for to build bonds

There are three essential behavioral means by which we maintain, and feel rewarded by, bonding with dogs. The first is contact: the touch of an animal…

Petting zoos have arisen to satisfy the urge to engage that animal on the other side of the fence not only by looking at it, but by touching it. Better still if the animal is touching back—with, say, a warm tongue or worn teeth grabbing at the food in your outstretched hands.

Children and even adults who approach me on the street as I walk with my dog want not to look at the dog, to watch her wag, to meditate on the dog—no, they want to pet the dog: to touch her. In fact, after a cursory rub, many people appear satisfied with that interaction. Even a brief touch is sufficient to bolster the feeling that a connection has been made.

Occasionally one might find one’s toes, hanging off the end of the bed bare, being licked.

Petting dogs — and in general, touch — is the first thing dogs reach for to build bonds

Dogs and humans share this innate drive for contact. … being held by the mother may be naturally comforting.

Watch an infant child, with limited vision and even more limited mobility, try to snuggle into his mother, his head rooting around for contact, and one is seeing just what newborn puppies look like.

Blind and deaf at birth, they are born with the instinct to huddle with siblings and their mother, or even with any solid object nearby. The ethologist Michael Fox describes the head of a puppy as a “thermotactile sensory probe,” moving in a semicircle until it touches something. This begins a life of social behavior reinforced by and embracing contact.

Wolves are estimated to make a move to touch one another at least six times an hour.

Petting dogs, and being touched by dogs, builds our bonds and maintains our bonds

Directed toward us, the dog’s youthful instinct becomes a drive to burrow a head under our sleeping bodies or to rest a head upon us; to push and bump us as we walk; to gently nibble or lick us dry. We find them touchable: furry and soft, right under dangling fingertips…

…full-body contact is preferred by some dogs, especially young dogs, and especially when they are the initiators of the contact. Dogs often find places to lie down that maximize contiguity of body with body. This might be a safe posture for dogs, especially as puppies, when they are entirely reliant on others for their care. To feel light pressure along the whole body is to have assurance of your well-being.

It is hard to imagine knowing a dog but not touching him—or being touched by him. To be nudged by a dog’s nose is a pleasure unmatched.[2]


  1. Tamaki, Rie. “Yuzu Ruby Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Puppy Sleeping on My Lap.” YouTube, 6 May 2013, youtube.com/watch?v=wtYrozATkP4. Accessed 28 May 2017.
  2. Horowitz, Alexandra. Inside of a dog: What dogs see, smell, and know. Scribner, 2009, Scribd pp. 325-343.

Rest from conflict is more common in older people

Rest from conflict — “loyalty” — is passive with respect to the social partner, and is constructive

Rest from conflict—“loyalty”—is passive with respect to the social partner, and is constructive.[1]

Rest from conflict means waiting hopefully

Conflict strategies are defined along two dimensions…

  1. The active–passive dimension indicates whether an individual confronts or avoids the problem.
  2. The constructive–destructive dimension refers to whether the strategy is likely to benefit or harm the relationship.

Based on these dimensions, 4 conflict categories arise: exit, neglect, voice, and loyalty.

  • Exit includes active destructive behaviors, such as yelling and hitting.
  • Neglect encompasses passive destructive strategies, such as pretending the social partner does not exist, sulking, or avoiding interactions.
  • Voice involves active constructive behaviors to directly solve the problem, such as discussing the issue.
  • Loyalty includes passive constructive strategies, such as optimistically waiting for things to change. For example, a person may be irritated but chooses not to say anything to avoid upsetting her social partner.

It is possible that individuals in all age groups usually respond to conflict with active constructive strategies. But, whether people also use active destructive strategies (e.g., yelling) or passive constructive strategies (e.g., doing nothing) varies with age group.

Rest from conflict is less common in younger people, in general

In this study…

…age differences were not accounted for by intensity of distress, relationship quality, contact frequency, or type of social partner.

…younger people were more likely to use exit responses (e.g., arguing, yelling) than older people…

…we did not find that younger people were also more likely to use neglect than older adults.

It is possible that neglect behaviors are not always destructive. Avoiding the person or leaving the situation may be advantageous for relationships if used immediately after a conflict because of extreme anger and the potential to engage in destructive behaviors. These behaviors may be harmful, however, if used over long periods of time.

…older adults were less likely to use certain destructive strategies than younger people.

…there were no age group differences in active constructive (voice) strategies, such as discussion.

…older adults were more likely to report loyalty strategies (e.g., doing nothing)…

…adolescents and middle-aged adults were less likely than oldest–old adults to describe loyalty.

Rest from conflict is more common in young adults and in older people

Young adults and oldest–old adults may have been equally likely to use loyalty because many of the young adults were enrolled in college or may have been employed in low-status jobs, which may encourage the use of loyalty.

It appears that individuals are better able to regulate their behavioral responses to interpersonal problems as they age.

…we found that older adults are more likely to use certain constructive strategies than younger adults.

…older adults were more likely to describe loyalty strategies (e.g., doing nothing) than younger people…[2]


  1. Dowding, Keith, et al. “Exit, voice and loyalty: Analytic and empirical developments.European Journal of Political Research 37.4 (2000): 469-495.
  2. Birditt, Kira S., and Karen L. Fingerman. “Do we get better at picking our battles? Age group differences in descriptions of behavioral reactions to interpersonal tensions.The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences 60.3 (2005): P121-P128.