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Dietrich College News
Marianna Brown Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Carnegie Mellon University

December 2014

Instead of an apple, could a hug-a-day keep the doctor away? According to new research from CMU's Psychology Department, it may not be that far-fetched of an idea.


Led by Sheldon Cohen, the Robert E. Doherty University Professor of Psychology, and Denise Janicki-Deverts, the researchers tested whether hugs act as a form of social support, protecting stressed people from getting sick. They found that greater social support and more frequent hugs protected people from the increased susceptibility to infection associated with being stressed and resulted in less severe illness symptoms.


Cohen and his team chose to study hugging as an example of social support because hugs are typically a marker of having a more intimate and close relationship with another person.


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Students Suggest Ways for Pittsburgh To Balance Privacy and Public Safety  

Red light cameras are designed to enforce traffic laws, but what about the other footage they capture?


Using surveillance technologies raises serious legal and ethical questions, and cities across the U.S. are tasked with figuring out how to balance public safely with protecting privacy rights.


To help Pittsburgh officials understand the issues and develop effective policies, City Councilman Dan Gilman (DC'04) turned to Ethics, History and Public Policy seniors.


The 10 students spent the semester researching the history of surveillance technology, analyzing how similar cities have implemented different tools and policies and developing recommendations for Pittsburgh. They recently presented their findings to City Council, Debra Lam, director of the city's Department of Innovation and Performance and Pittsburgh's new Chief of Police, Cameron McLay.


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Social Thoughts Predict Autism        

CMU researchers have created brain-reading techniques to use neural representations of social thoughts to predict autism diagnoses with 97 percent accuracy. This establishes the first biologically based diagnostic tool that measures a person's thoughts to detect the disorder that affects many children and adults worldwide.


"We've shown not just that the brains of people with autism may be different, or that their activation is different, but that the way social thoughts are formed is different. We have discovered a biological thought-marker for autism," said Marcel Just, the D.O. Hebb University Professor of Psychology.


Implications of this research could extend to other psychiatric disorders, such as being suicidal or having obsessive-compulsive disorder, in which certain types of thoughts are altered.


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A Buggy Connection: Samuel Swift (DC'04)

Samuel Swift (DC'04, TPR'09,'12) cemented his lifelong connection to Carnegie Mellon University when he joined the Fringe buggy team.


As a founder of the CMU Buggy Alumni Association, Swift has enabled countless like-minded alumni to sustain that same invaluable tie.


Swift spent three years as head mechanic for his buggy team. Academically, enrolling in the first Decision Science cohort proved a perfect fit for his intellectual interests.


"Social and Decision Sciences is about asking how to measure people's behavior," said the Richmond, Va., native. "Economic theory gives you a good ruler, psychology gives you great insights and together, you can think about any problem in the human world."


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Introducing a New Dietrich College Website 

The Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences has launched a new website. Enhancements include - but are not limited to:

You can also read a message from Dean Richard Scheines and find out where Dietrich College has been making headlines.


The new college website can be found at


If you have suggestions, edits or comments about the new website, please let us know.

More Dietrich College News 

CMU Press Publishes "The Collected Stories of Gladys Schmitt," the award-winning author and founder of the Creative Writing Program

Society for Judgment and Decision Making Presents Alex Imas With New Investigator Award

Moneythink: Students Mentor High School Students

Hockey's Statistical Revolution: Analytical Conference Held at CMU

Andreea Deciu Ritivoi Receives NEH Fellowship

Anna V. Fisher Wins James S. McDonnell Foundation Cognition Scholar Award

Pittsburgh Children to Sing Spanish-Language Carols, Dec. 20 & 21

Dietrich College Multimedia 

Fall 2014 Phi Alpha Theta Inductees

Ethics, History and Public Policy Students Present Privacy and Public Safety Research to Pittsburgh City Council
Understanding Autism with Professor Marlene Behrmann

Moneythink at Carnegie Mellon University

Researchers Accurately Predict Autism Diagnosis Based on Brain Representations
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