Study Finds No Link Between Teen Suicide Risk and Flu Drug

Study Finds No Link Between Teen Suicide Risk and Flu Drug

In a new study, researchers did not find an increased risk of suicide among adolescent patients taking the drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu), the only commercially available medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat the flu.

After the drug’s approval in 1999, case reports began to emerge of abnormal behavior in adolescents who had taken the drug. This led the FDA to require that the medication come with a warning label of potential neuropsychiatric side effects, such as hallucinations, delirium, self-harm, and suicide.

So far, clinical studies examining a link between Tamiflu and neuropsychiatric side effects in children, including suicide, have been inconclusive, however. They have also been limited by methodology and potential confounding factors, according to researchers.

In an effort to fill this gap, researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) College of Pharmacy retrospectively studied the association between the use of Tamiflu and the most consequential of those reported side effects: suicide.

“I think physicians will welcome a large, rigorous study on this topic and factor this information into their decision-making process,” said corresponding author Dr. James Antoon, assistant professor of clinical pediatrics in the UIC College of Medicine.

“While this study addresses suicide, there are still many other questions about other possible neuropsychiatric side effects of the drug, which we plan to study in the future. There are also other reasons to use caution when prescribing the drug, including resistance and efficacy in children.”

First, the researchers identified 21,047 children and teens between the ages of one and 18 who attempted suicide during five recent flu seasons (2009-2013) from a national administrative claims database. Of these, 251 had been exposed to Tamiflu, which was determined based on outpatient pharmacy dispensing data.

The mean age of this group was 15 years, 61 percent were female, and 65 percent had an underlying mental health diagnosis.

“For each of the 251 patients, we assigned the 10-day period immediately before the suicide attempt as the case period and we identified up to four earlier control periods of the same length, in the same flu season,” Antoon said. “This helped us to account for within-person confounders, like depression, mental health, trauma and abuse, and other factors, like race or ethnicity.”

The research team repeated the analysis with flu diagnosis alone (without the use of Tamiflu) to determine whether the infection itself could have been a confounding factor associated with suicide risk.

“The potential link between a drug and suicide is a particularly difficult topic to study,” Antoon said. “Many events, which can happen simultaneously or over time, can influence a person to attempt suicide, as can an illness itself, so it can be difficult to study scientifically.

“That’s why we used a novel method called a case-crossover design,” Antoon said. “This analysis is different because it allowed us to use each individual subject as his or her own comparison — we retrospectively studied how patients behaved when on Tamiflu and compared it to their behavior when they were not taking the drug.”

“We did not find any association between exposure to Tamiflu and suicide in pediatric patients,” Antoon said.

While Antoon believes the study may alleviate some fears health care providers have about prescribing the medication in healthy children, he says doctors will likely continue to prescribe Tamiflu with caution.

The findings are published in the Annals of Family Medicine.

Source: University of Illinois at Chicago

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Men and Women With Depression Show Opposite Molecular Changes

Men and Women With Depression Show Opposite Molecular Changes

New research finds that men and women with major depressive disorder (MDD) have opposite changes in the expression of the same genes. If true, the discovery suggests that men and women may need different types of treatment for depression.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Toronto, Canada, base their conclusion on a new postmortem brain study.

The findings, published in Biological Psychiatry, indicate distinct pathology for men and women.

“This important paper highlights the divergent molecular mechanisms contributing to depression in men and women. It challenges the assumption that a similar diagnosis across people has the same biology,” said John Krystal, M.D., editor of Biological Psychiatry.

This is the first time this unique opposing pathology has been reported.

“While researchers have been examining the brains of depressed subjects for decades, many of these studies included only men,” said lead author Marianne Seney, Ph.D., of University of Pittsburgh. This is despite the differences in MDD between men and women: Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with MDD, and report greater illness severity and different types of symptoms than men.

The study combined eight published datasets (four in men and four in women) in a meta-analysis. Senior author Etienne Sibille, Ph.D., of CAMH, and colleagues analyzed gene expression levels, which indicate how much protein a gene is producing, in postmortem brain tissue of 50 people with MDD (26 men and 24 women) and the same number of unaffected men and women for comparison.

Most of the genes that had altered expression were changed in only men or only women. However, genes that were altered in both men and women were changed in opposite directions.

Women had increased expression of genes affecting synapse function, whereas men had decreased expression of the same genes. Women had decreases in genes affecting immune function, whereas men had increased expression of these genes.

Additionally, the researchers applied their methods to data from a different set of subjects and replicated the opposing changes.

The analysis focused on three different brain regions that regulate mood — the anterior cingulate cortex, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and amygdala — and that are dysfunctional in MDD.

Investigators discovered opposite changes in gene expression were specific to the different brain regions. So if women had increased expression of a particular gene in one region and decreased in another, men showed just the opposite.

Because the study used postmortem brain tissue, the effect of the opposite molecular signatures on how MDD affects men and women differently could not be studied. But the findings support sex-specific pathology in the disorder.

“These results have significant implications for development of potential novel treatments and suggest that these treatments should be developed separately for men and women,” said Seney.

For example, in the paper the authors suggest that new treatments targeting the sex-specific pathology in MDD might suppress immune function in men, or boost its function in women.

Source: Elsevier

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Gender Differences Found in Brains of Sleep Apnea Patients

Gender Differences Found in Brains of Sleep Apnea Patients

A new brain imaging study reveals structural brain changes in patients with sleep apnea as well as distinct differences between males and females with the condition.

Obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder which involves disruption of the upper airway, affects about 10 percent of adults. Men are twice as likely to have the condition as women, and symptoms and brain function appear to vary between sexes. When left untreated, the effects of sleep apnea on brain damage increases over time. Its cause is still unknown.

For the study, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Nursing looked at the brain scans and clinical records of patients who recently had been diagnosed with sleep apnea.

Using high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, the researchers analyzed the cortex thickness of 12 women and 36 men who had diagnoses of mild to severe obstructive sleep apnea (who were not being treated for their condition), and compared those findings to 40 male and 22 female healthy controls. The researchers then compared clinical findings of each patient with evidence of cortex thinning.

Not only did they discover several connections between apnea symptoms and thinning of the brain’s cerebral cortex, but they also found distinct differences between men and women when it came to brain structure and concurrent symptoms.

For example, more regions of the superior frontal lobe were thinner in women with apnea than in men with apnea or control groups, which might explain the greater cognitive deficits often found among women with the condition.

In addition, overall cortical thinning could potentially result in poor regulation of the autonomic nervous system and the associated upper-airway breathing dysfunction typically seen in these patients. No sleep apnea patients showed any thickening of the cerebral cortex.

Although previous research has shown a link between brain structure changes and general clinical signs, no studies have definitively linked gender differences in brain structure with apnea symptoms.

The current study is one of the first to reveal significant clinical differences between men and women with sleep apnea, and points to the need for different treatment approaches in addressing these varied symptoms.

Overall, the greater cortex injury in the cognitive centers of women’s brains may help explain why female apnea patients tend to have more severe cognitive problems than men with the condition. In addition, the thinning associated with both men and women who have sleep apnea may be behind the disordered breathing seen in both sexes.

It is still unclear, however, whether these physical brain changes precede the sleep apnea disorder, or worsen sleep apnea’s symptoms as the disorder progresses.

Source: University of California, Los Angeles Health Sciences

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Therapy Dogs May Ease Stress of College Students

Therapy Dogs May Ease Stress of College Students

A new study from the University of British Columbia (UBC) shows that some one-on-one time with a therapy dog can do the trick of boosting student wellness.

Some believe college students are more stressed than ever before. As such, academic centers are taking proactive strategies to provide healthy avenues for students.

“Therapy dog sessions are becoming more popular on university campuses, but there has been surprisingly little research on how much attending a single drop-in therapy dog session actually helps students,” said Emma Ward-Griffin, the study’s lead author and research assistant in the UBC department of psychology.

“Our findings suggest that therapy dog sessions have a measurable, positive effect on the wellbeing of university students, particularly on stress reduction and feelings of negativity.”

In the study, researchers surveyed 246 students before and after they spent time in a drop-in therapy dog session. Students were free to pet, cuddle, and chat with seven to 12 canine companions during the sessions. They also filled out questionnaires immediately before and after the session, and again about 10 hours later.

The researchers found that participants reported significant reductions in stress as well as increased happiness and energy immediately following the session, compared to a control group of students who did not spend time at a therapy dog session. While feelings of happiness and life satisfaction did not appear to last, some effects did.

The study appears in Stress and Health.

“The results were remarkable,” said Dr. Stanley Coren, study co-author and professor emeritus of psychology at UBC.

“We found that, even 10 hours later, students still reported slightly less negative emotion, feeling more supported, and feeling less stressed, compared to students who did not take part in the therapy dog session.”

While previous research suggested that female students benefit from therapy dog sessions more than male students, the researchers found the benefits were equally distributed across both genders in this study.

Since the strong positive effects of the therapy dog session were short-lived, the researchers concluded that universities should be encouraged to offer them at periods of increased stress.

“These sessions clearly provide benefits for students in the short-term, so we think universities should try to schedule them during particularly stressful times, such as around exam periods,” said Dr. Frances Chen, the study’s senior author and an assistant professor of psychology at UBC.

“Even having therapy dogs around while students are working on their out-of-class assignments could be helpful.”

The therapy dog sessions were organized in partnership with UBC’s Alma Mater Society and Vancouver ecoVillage, a non-profit organization that provides therapeutic services, including therapy dog sessions, and mental health wellness services.

Source: University of British Columbia

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Mix of Some Personality Traits May Up Risk of Compulsive Social Media Use

Mix of Some Personality Traits May Up Risk of Compulsive Social Media Use

In a new study, researchers explored how the interaction of specific personality traits can impact the likelihood of developing compulsive Internet use, in particular to social networking sites.

“There has been plenty of research on how the interaction of certain personality traits affects addiction to things like alcohol and drugs,” said Binghamton University School of Management assistant professor Dr. Isaac Vaghefi.

“We wanted to apply a similar framework to social networking addiction.”

Vaghefi, and co-researcher Dr. Hamed Qahri-Saremi of DePaul University in Chicago, collected self-reported data from nearly 300 college-aged students. They found that three personality traits in particular — neuroticism, conscientiousness, and agreeableness — were related to social network addiction.

These three personality traits are part of the five-factor personality model, a well-established framework for  understanding the human personality.

Researchers found that the two other traits in the model — extraversion and openness to experience — did not play much of a role in the likelihood of developing a social network addiction.

In addition to testing the effect the singular traits had, the investigators studied how the traits interact with one another as they relate to social network addiction.

“It’s a complex and complicated topic. You can’t have a simplistic approach,” said Vaghefi.

Study authors note that on their own, the personality traits of neuroticism and conscientiousness have direct negative and positive effects on the likelihood of developing a social network addiction.

Researchers found that neuroticism (the extent to which people experience negative emotions such as stress and anxiety) seemed to increase the likelihood of developing an addiction to social network sites.

On the other hand, higher amounts of conscientiousness (having impulse control and the drive to achieve specific goals) seemed to decrease the likelihood of developing a social network addiction.

But when tested together, they found that neuroticism seemed to moderate the effect of conscientiousness as it relates to social network addiction.

The finding is complex because someone can simultaneously be highly neurotic and conscientious. Researchers found that even if someone is able to practice self-discipline and regularly persists at achieving goals, the fact that they may also be a stressful and anxious person often overrides the perceived control they may have over social network use.

This moderation effect could cause a conscientious person to be more likely to develop an addiction to social networking sites.

Researchers found that agreeableness alone, the degree to which someone is friendly, empathetic, and helpful, didn’t have a significant effect on social network addiction — but this changes when combined with conscientiousness.

A combination of low levels of both agreeableness and conscientiousness (someone can be both generally unsympathetic and irresponsible) often are related to a higher likelihood of social network addiction. Paradoxically, the opposite combination of high levels of both agreeableness and conscientiousness also increase risk of social network addiction.

Vaghefi said this unexpected finding could be explained from a “rational addiction” perspective, meaning some users are intentionally using more of a social network to maximize the perceived benefits of it.

For example, he said an agreeable and friendly person may be making a very conscientious decision to use social networks more in order to interact with their friends, as they make it a deliberate goal to flourish those relationships through the use of social networks.

This is unique because this addiction would not be a result of irrationality or a lack of impulse control, as is often associated with addiction. Rather, a person would be developing an addiction through a rational and well-meaning process.

Vaghefi hopes that based on this research, people will look at the “whole picture” when it comes to how personality traits impact social networking addiction.

“It’s more of a holistic approach to discover what kind of people are more likely to develop an addiction,” said Vaghefi.

“Rather than just focusing on one personality trait, this allows you to look at an all-inclusive personality profile.”

Vaghefi’s paper was presented at the 51st Hawaii International Conference on Systems Science.

Source: Binghamton University/EurekAlert

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Mice Study Shows How Others’ Stress Can Alter Brain Just Like Real Thing

Mice Study Shows How Others’ Stress Can Alter Brain Just Like Real Thing

New Canadian research using mice shows that stress transmitted from others can change the brain in the same way as real stress does. The study also shows that the effects of stress on the brain are reversed in female mice — but not males — following a social interaction.

Jaideep Bains, Ph.D., and his team at the University of Calgary studied the effects of stress in pairs of male or female mice. They removed one mouse from each pair and exposed it to a mild stress before returning it to its partner.

They then examined the responses of a specific population of cells, specifically CRH neurons which control the brain’s response to stress, in each mouse. Networks in the brains of both the stressed mouse and naïve partner were altered in the same way.

“Brain changes associated with stress underpin many mental illnesses including PTSD, anxiety disorders, and depression,” said Bains, professor in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology and member of the Cumming School of Medicine’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI).

“Recent studies indicate that stress and emotions can be ‘contagious’. Whether this has lasting consequences for the brain is not known.”

Toni-Lee Sterley, Ph.D., a postdoctoral associate in Bains’ lab and the study’s lead author comments, “What was remarkable was that CRH neurons from the partners, who were not themselves exposed to an actual stress, showed changes that were identical to those we measured in the stressed mice.”

The team then used optogenetic approaches to engineer these neurons so that they could either turn them on or off with light. When the team silenced these neurons during stress, they prevented changes in the brain that would normally take place after stress.

When they silenced the neurons in the partner during its interaction with a stressed individual, the stress did not transfer to the partner. Remarkably, when they activated these neurons using light in one mouse, even in the absence of stress, the brain of the mouse receiving light and that of the partner were changed just as they would be after a real stress.

The team discovered that the activation of these CRH neurons causes the release of a chemical signal, an “alarm pheromone,” from the mouse that alerts the partner.

The partner who detects the signal can in turn alert additional members of the group. This propagation of stress signals reveals a key mechanism for transmission of information that may be critical in the formation of social networks in various species.

Another advantage of social networks is their ability to buffer the effects of adverse events. The Bains team also found evidence for buffering of stress, but this was selective.

They noticed that in females the residual effects of stress on CRH neurons were cut almost in half following time with unstressed partners. The same was not true for males.

Bains suggested these findings may also be present in humans. “We readily communicate our stress to others, sometimes without even knowing it. There is even evidence that some symptoms of stress can persist in family and loved ones of individuals who suffer from PTSD. On the flip side, the ability to sense another’s emotional state is a key part of creating and building social bonds.”

The study, which appears in the journal Nature Neuroscience, indicates that stress and social interactions are intricately linked. The consequences of these interactions can be long-lasting and may influence behaviors at a later time.

Source: University of Calgary/EurekAlert

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Is Suicide Linked to Living at High Altitude?

Is Suicide Linked to Living at High Altitude?

A research review discovers high-altitude areas have increased rates of suicide and depression. In the United States, intermountain states were found to have the highest suicide rate with investigators positing that blood oxygen levels due to low atmospheric pressure may play a factor.

The research appears in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry.

Brent Michael Kious, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Utah, and colleagues explain that additional research may reveal interventions to reduce the effects of low blood oxygen on mood and suicidal thoughts.

In the current study, the researchers reviewed and analyzed previous evidence linking higher altitude of residence to increased risk of suicide and depression. The scientists then considered possible explanations for these associations.

“There are significant regional variations in the rates of major depressive disorder and suicide in the United States, suggesting that sociodemographic and environmental conditions contribute,” Kious and coauthors write.

Twelve studies were analyzed with most performed in the United States. The investigations included population-based data on the relationship between suicide or depression and altitude.

While the studies used varying methods, most reported that higher-altitude areas had increased rates of depression and suicide. In general, the correlation was stronger for suicide than for depression.

The highest suicide rates were clustered in the intermountain states: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. (Alaska and Virginia also had high suicide rates.)

In a 2014 study, the percentage of adults with “serious thoughts of suicide” ranged from 3.3 percent in Connecticut (average altitude 490 feet) to 4.9 percent in Utah (average altitude 6,100 feet).

Other key findings from previous research on altitude and suicide included:

  • Populations living at higher altitudes had increased suicide rates despite having decreased rates of death from all causes. Rather than a steady increase, the studies suggested a “threshold effect”: suicide rates increased dramatically at altitudes between about 2,000 and 3,000 feet;
  • Suicide rates were more strongly associated with altitude than with firearm ownership. Other factors linked to suicide rate included increased poverty rate, lower income, and smaller population ratios of white and divorced women. However, the studies could not account for all factors potentially affecting variations in suicide, such as substance abuse rates and cultural differences;
  • While more than 80 percent of U.S. suicides occur in low-altitude areas, that’s because most of the population lives near sea level. Adjusted for population distribution, suicide rates per 100,000 population were 17.7 at high altitude, 11.9 at middle altitude, and 4.8 at low altitude. Studies from some other countries, but not all, also reported increased suicide rates at higher altitudes.

Why would altitude affect suicide rates? Kious and coauthors suggest the answer might be “chronic hypobaric hypoxia”: low blood oxygen related to low atmospheric pressure.

That theory is supported by studies in animals and short-term studies in humans. The authors suggest two pathways by which hypobaric hypoxia might increase the risks of suicide and depression: by altering the metabolism of the neurotransmitter serotonin and/or; through its effects on brain bioenergetics.

If borne out by future studies, these mechanisms suggest some possible treatments to mitigate the effects of altitude on depression and suicide risk: supplemental 5-hydroxytryptophan (a serotonin precursor) to increase serotonin levels, or creatinine to influence brain bioenergetics.

Indeed, the review identifies several areas in need of further research, including the effects of prolonged exposure to altitude on both serotonin metabolism and brain bioenergetics.

Source: Wolters Kluwer Health/EurekAlert

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Older Adults with Fewer Social Ties Less Likely to Get Cataract Surgery

Older Adults with Fewer Social Ties Less Likely to Get Cataract Surgery

A new study adds to the growing body of research examining the effects of social isolation on health. The findings, published in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology, show that older people with very few family members or friends are less likely to get cataract surgery, a procedure with broad implications for health.

A cataract is a medical condition in which the lens of the eye becomes progressively opaque, resulting in blurry vision. It is one of the most common and treatable causes of vision impairment in the United States. Cataract surgery can improve one’s quality of life, reduce the risk of falls and cut cognitive decline among older adults.

The researchers from the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center believe that strong social networks may play a significant role in the likelihood of older adults opting for cataract surgery. Not only can family members motivate older adults to take care of their fading vision, but they can also can help them get the care they need.

“It may get to a point that it takes people around them to speak up about their changing vision,” said study author Brian Stagg, M.D., a Kellogg ophthalmologist and health services researcher at the University of Michigan.

For the study, the researchers looked at 9,760 adults over the age of 65 with Medicare benefits. They found that those with none, one or two family members had 40-percent lower odds of receiving cataract surgery than adults with three or more family members. Data came from the National Health and Aging Trends Study.

The new study by Kellogg Eye Center is consistent with a trend in health research that examines the harmful impact of social isolation on health.

“A nuanced understanding of the impact of social support networks is important to develop as we implement strategies to improve access to cataract surgery for a rapidly growing older population,” Stagg said.

There are several ways to help older patients who may not have a sufficient social network. For example, primary care doctors and ophthalmologists may need to ask their older patients if transportation and support is available after the procedure. A social worker could help navigate care, too, say the authors of the study.

According to the findings, friends, spouses or partners did not influence an older person’s decision to have cataract surgery as much as their adult children. This suggests that an adult child who regularly visits an older parent might detect vision changes that others have not noticed.

Source: Michigan Medicine- University of Michigan

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Emotional Support Is Vital for Stroke Patients and Families

Emotional Support Is Vital for Stroke Patients and Families

A new Scottish study suggests that physicians of severe stroke patients need to take into account their patients’ mental health needs and better prepare their families for the possibility that their loved one may not recover.

The study, conducted by researchers from the universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, reveals that many stroke patients and their families experience debilitating feelings of loss and uncertainty following a major stroke which can significantly impact their quality of life.

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or reduced, typically by a blocked artery, or a blood vessel leaking or bursting, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients. Stroke accounts for more than 6 million deaths per year worldwide.

For the study, the researchers followed patients in Scotland over the course of a year following a severe form of stroke. They also interviewed health care staff and family caregivers. The series of interviews conducted over a period of six months suggest that healthcare professionals should not shy away from sensitive discussions about death.

“Stroke occurs suddenly and patients may face death or survival with major disability,” said Professor Gillian Mead of the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh.

“Staff must have sensitive conversations with patients and family to find out their views and agree on which treatments are appropriate. This is an important education and training topic for everyone in the stroke team.”

More than half of the patients in the study died within six months of admission to hospital. Families reported that despite the high risk of death, care was overly focused on physical recovery with little attention to emotional needs or preparation for death.

“If they had told us the magnitude of the stroke as far back as the first hospital visit we would have done things differently, rather than pushing for something that was never going to happen,” said one of the study caregivers whose father died from a severe stroke.

Since so many major-stroke patients die within six months, the study researchers suggest that care should reflect the possibility of death and disability. They also say that rehabilitation should incorporate principles of palliative care to address the emotional, social and spiritual— as well as the physical — needs of patients.

“It is a sad fact that many people with a severe stroke die, despite excellent and speedy medical care. Whilst we hope for a good recovery, relatives and patients also should be supported in preparing for the worst to help them to focus on quality of life,” said study leader Professor Scott Murray of the University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute of Population Health Science and Informatics.

The new study appears in the Canadian Medical Association Journal and was funded by Chief Scientist Office, part of the Scottish Government Health Directorates.

Source: University of Edinburgh

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After Instructional Videos, A Boost in Confidence But Not Ability

After Instructional Videos, A Boost in Confidence But Not Ability

Watching YouTube videos, Instagram demos and Facebook tutorials can make us feel as though we’re acquiring all sorts of new skills, but a new study shows that it only inflates our confidence, not our abilities.

“The more that people watched others, the more they felt they could perform the same skill, too  even when their abilities hadn’t actually changed for the better,” said study author Michael Kardas of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. “Our findings suggest that merely watching others could cause people to attempt skills that they might not be ready or able to perform themselves.”

Social media platforms have made it easy to record, share, and access instructional videos. But does watching videos without practicing the demonstrated skills actually improve our ability to perform them? Kardas and his study coauthor Ed O’Brien, Ph.D., conducted a series of six experiments to find out.

In one online experiment, the researchers assigned 1,003 participants to watch a video, read step-by-step instructions, or merely think about performing the “tablecloth trick,” which involves pulling a tablecloth off a table without disturbing the place settings on top.

People who watched the five-second video 20 times were much more confident in their ability to pull off the trick than those who watched the video once, according to the study’s findings.

However, people who simply read or thought about the trick for an extended period of time did not show this confidence boost, the researchers discovered.

These results provided initial evidence that repeated viewing may lead people to an inflated sense of competence, the researchers noted.

To find out whether this perception is borne out by actual performance, Kardas and O’Brien tested a group of 193 participants on their dart-throwing abilities. Those who watched a demo video 20 times estimated that they would score more points than those who saw the video only once, they discovered.

This high-exposure group also predicted that they would be more likely to hit the bull’s-eye and reported that they had learned more technique and improved more after watching the video, the researchers reported.

The perceptions did not line up with reality: People who watched the video many times scored no better than those who saw it once, according to the study’s findings.

Kardas and O’Brien found evidence for this phenomenon in other domains, including doing the moonwalk, playing a digital computer game, and juggling. The more that participants watched others perform these skills, the more they overestimated their own abilities.

Why does repeatedly watching a video breed such overconfidence?

The researchers note that participants who watched a variation of the tablecloth trick video that did not show the performer’s hands did not become overconfident, suggesting that people may feel confident only when they can track the specific steps and actions in performing a skill.

Thinking about detailed steps or learning technical information about the objects involved did not lead participants to form more accurate perceptions, according to the researchers.

In an experiment focused on juggling, only participants who were able to hold the pins after watching a juggling video revised their estimates, reporting that they had learned less and were less capable than they originally thought after watching, the researchers said.

“We see this as a potentially widespread phenomenon given that people have daily access to outlets for watching others perform,” Kardas said. “Anyone who goes online to look up tips before attempting a skill — from cooking techniques to DIY home repairs to X Games tricks — would benefit from knowing that they might be overconfident in their own abilities after watching, and should exercise caution before attempting similar skills themselves.”

The researchers said they are interested in testing other strategies, such as playing virtual-reality games, that might mitigate the overconfidence effect, helping people to better appreciate the limitations inherent in merely watching others.

The study was published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Source: Association for Psychological Science

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