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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Department of Psychology

UC San Diego

Open Access Policy Deposits

This series is automatically populated with publications deposited by UC San Diego Department of Psychology researchers in accordance with the University of California’s open access policies. For more information see Open Access Policy Deposits and the UC Publication Management System.

Cover page of How Do Anger and Impulsivity Impact Fast-Food Consumption in Transitional Age Youth?

How Do Anger and Impulsivity Impact Fast-Food Consumption in Transitional Age Youth?



Consumption of fast food has been linked to psychiatric distress, violent behaviors, and impulsivity in adolescents. The relationship between eating fast food, anger, and impulsivity has not been widely investigated. The National Consortium on Alcohol and Neurodevelopment in Adolescence community-based cohort consists of 831 youth, half at elevated risk factors for substance use disorders during adolescence, followed annually.


Impulsivity using Urgency, Premeditation, Perseverance, and Sensation Seeking Impulsive Behavior scale from annual assessments was examined in relation to self-reported fast-food consumption frequency and mobile application questions of anger. This study tested the hypotheses that youth anger may be predicted by fast-food consumption frequency and impulsivity using multiple regression, in addition to whether adolescent fast-food consumption frequency may be predicted by anger and impulsivity.


Among youth, higher anger levels and impulsivity predicted greater frequency of fast-food consumption, and greater fast-food consumption frequency and impulsivity predicted higher anger levels.


This study's longitudinal findings are consistent with those of other studies that have found fast-food consumption and anger associated with impulsivity and also reveal a bidirectional link between anger and fast-food consumption. These results may point attention to food selection considerations for those at risk of anger and poorer psychiatric outcomes.

Cover page of Parallel developmental changes in childrens production and recognition of line drawings of visual concepts.

Parallel developmental changes in childrens production and recognition of line drawings of visual concepts.


Childhood is marked by the rapid accumulation of knowledge and the prolific production of drawings. We conducted a systematic study of how children create and recognize line drawings of visual concepts. We recruited 2-10-year-olds to draw 48 categories via a kiosk at a childrens museum, resulting in >37K drawings. We analyze changes in the category-diagnostic information in these drawings using vision algorithms and annotations of object parts. We find developmental gains in childrens inclusion of category-diagnostic information that are not reducible to variation in visuomotor control or effort. Moreover, even unrecognizable drawings contain information about the animacy and size of the category children tried to draw. Using guessing games at the same kiosk, we find that children improve across childhood at recognizing each others line drawings. This work leverages vision algorithms to characterize developmental changes in childrens drawings and suggests that these changes reflect refinements in childrens internal representations.

Cover page of Parenting by Lying.

Parenting by Lying.


Parenting by lying is a practice in which parents lie to their children to influence their emotions or behavior. Recently, researchers have tried to document the nature of this phenomenon and to understand its causes and consequences. The present research provides an overview of the research in the emerging field, describes some key theoretical and methodological challenges in studying this topic, and proposes a theoretical framework for understanding parenting by lying and for guiding future research to advance our knowledge about this understudied parenting practice.

Cover page of Fluency, prediction and motivation: how processing dynamics, expectations and epistemic goals shape aesthetic judgements.

Fluency, prediction and motivation: how processing dynamics, expectations and epistemic goals shape aesthetic judgements.


What psychological mechanisms underlie aesthetic judgements? An influential account known as the Hedonic Marking of Fluency, later developed into a Processing Fluency Theory of Aesthetic Pleasure, posits that ease of processing elicits positive feelings and thus enhances stimulus evaluations. However, the theory faces empirical and conceptual challenges. In this paper, we extend it by integrating insights from predictive processing frameworks (PPF) and the epistemic motivation model (EMM). We propose four extensions. First, fluency of a stimulus depends on perceivers expectations-their internal model of the world. Second, perceivers also form expectations about fluency itself and thus can experience surprising fluency. These expectations can come from the individuals history, their current task and their environment. Third, perceivers can value fluency but also disfluency, reflecting their non-directional epistemic goals. Fourth, perceivers also have directional epistemic goals, preferring specific conclusions or belief content. Consequently, affective reactions depend on whether the stimulus satisfies those goals. These directional epistemic goals may override concerns about fluency or change the value of fluency associated with specific content. We review supporting evidence and introduce novel predictions. By integrating insights from PPF and EMM, our framework can better capture established fluency effects and highlights their limitations and extensions. This article is part of the theme issue Art, aesthetics and predictive processing: theoretical and empirical perspectives.

Cover page of Brain structural covariance network features are robust markers of early heavy alcohol use

Brain structural covariance network features are robust markers of early heavy alcohol use


Background and aims

Recently, we demonstrated that a distinct pattern of structural covariance networks (SCN) from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-derived measurements of brain cortical thickness characterized young adults with alcohol use disorder (AUD) and predicted current and future problematic drinking in adolescents relative to controls. Here, we establish the robustness and value of SCN for identifying heavy alcohol users in three additional independent studies.

Design and setting

Cross-sectional and longitudinal studies using data from the Pediatric Imaging, Neurocognition and Genetics (PING) study (n = 400, age range = 14-22 years), the National Consortium on Alcohol and Neurodevelopment in Adolescence (NCANDA) (n = 272, age range = 17-22 years) and the Human Connectome Project (HCP) (n = 375, age range = 22-37 years).


Cases were defined based on heavy alcohol use patterns or former alcohol use disorder (AUD) diagnoses: 50, 68 and 61 cases were identified. Controls had none or low alcohol use or absence of AUD: 350, 204 and 314 controls were selected.


Graph theory metrics of segregation and integration were used to summarize SCN.


Mirroring our prior findings, and across the three data sets, cases had a lower clustering coefficient [area under the curve (AUC) = -0.029, P = 0.002], lower modularity (AUC = -0.14, P = 0.004), lower average shortest path length (AUC = -0.078, P = 0.017) and higher global efficiency (AUC = 0.007, P = 0.010). Local efficiency differences were marginal (AUC = -0.017, P = 0.052). That is, cases exhibited lower network segregation and higher integration, suggesting that adjacent nodes (i.e. brain regions) were less similar in thickness whereas spatially distant nodes were more similar.


Structural covariance network (SCN) differences in the brain appear to constitute an early marker of heavy alcohol use in three new data sets and, more generally, demonstrate the utility of SCN-derived metrics to detect brain-related psychopathology.

Aesthetic Motivation Impacts Judgments of Others’ Prosociality and Mental Life


The ability to infer others' prosocial vs. antisocial behavioral tendencies from minimal information is core to social reasoning. Aesthetic motivation (the value or appreciation of aesthetic beauty) is linked with prosocial tendencies, raising the question of whether this factor is used in interpersonal reasoning and in the attribution of mental capacities. We propose and test a model of this reasoning, predicting that evidence of others' aesthetic motivations should impact judgments of others' prosocial (and antisocial) tendencies by signaling a heightened capacity for emotional experience. In a series of four pre-registered experiments (total N = 1440), participants saw pairs of characters (as photos/vignettes), and judged which in each pair showed more of a mental capacity of interest. Distractor items prevented participants from guessing the hypothesis. For one critical pair of characters, both characters performed the same activity (music listening, painting, cooking, exercising, being in nature, doing math), but one was motivated by the activities' aesthetic value, and the other by its functional value. Across all activities, participants robustly chose aesthetically-motivated characters as more likely to behave compassionately (Exp. 1; 3), less likely to behave selfishly/manipulatively (Exp. 1; 3), and as more emotionally sensitive, but not more intelligent (Exp. 2; 3; 4). Emotional sensitivity best predicted compassionate behavior judgements (Exp. 3). Aesthetically-motivated characters were not reliably chosen as more helpful; intelligence best predicted helpfulness judgements (Exp. 4). Evidence of aesthetic motivation conveys important social information about others, impacting fundamental interpersonal judgments about others' mental life and social behavior.

Cover page of Multimodal pathways to joint attention in infants with a familial history of autism.

Multimodal pathways to joint attention in infants with a familial history of autism.


Joint attention (JA) is an early-developing behavior that allows caregivers and infants to share focus on an object. Deficits in JA, as measured through face-following pathways, are a defining feature of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and are observable as early as 12 months of age in infants later diagnosed with ASD. However, recent evidence suggests that JA may be achieved through hand-following pathways by children with and without ASD. Development of JA through multimodal pathways has yet to be studied in infants with an increased likelihood of developing ASD. The current study investigated how 6-, 9- and 12-month-old infants with (FH+) and without (FH-) a family history of ASD engaged in JA. Parent-infant dyads played at home while we recorded the interaction over Zoom and later offline coded for hand movements and gaze. FH+ and FH- infants spent similar amounts of time in JA with their parents, but the cues available before JA were different. Parents of FH+ infants did more work to establish JA and used more face-following than hand-following pathways compared to parents of FH- infants, likely reflecting differences in infant motor or social behavior. These results suggest that early motor differences between FH+ and FH- infants may cascade into differences in social coordination.

Cover page of Probabilistic and rich individual working memories revealed by a betting game.

Probabilistic and rich individual working memories revealed by a betting game.


When asked to remember a color, do people remember a point estimate (e.g., a particular shade of red), a point estimate plus an uncertainty estimate, or are memory representations rich probabilistic distributions over feature space? We asked participants to report the color of a circle held in working memory. Rather than collecting a single report per trial, we had participants place multiple bets to create trialwise uncertainty distributions. Bet dispersion correlated with performance, indicating that internal uncertainty guided bet placement. While the first bet was on average the most precisely placed, the later bets systematically shifted the distribution closer to the target, resulting in asymmetrical distributions about the first bet. This resulted in memory performance improvements when averaging across bets, and overall suggests that memory representations contain more information than can be conveyed by a single response. The later bets contained target information even when the first response would generally be classified as a guess or report of an incorrect item, suggesting that such failures are not all-or-none. This paradigm provides multiple pieces of evidence that memory representations are rich and probabilistic. Crucially, standard discrete response paradigms underestimate the amount of information in memory representations.