111 Discoveries from Brain and Psychology Research in 2015
This is a collection of some of the most interesting findings in 2015 about our brain and behavior. The studies have all been published in scientific journals (and 1 from a research group). They cover areas of psychology, behavior, social science, and neuroscience.
It’s an extensive list, but hardly comprehensive. It’d be impossible to include everything. However, my aim was to strike a balance between findings that were interesting, but also useful.
We are discovering more about our brain and behavior every day. As we advance our technology, techniques, and understanding, we will continue to do so.
I’ve broken things down into into loose sections to make it easier to navigate and search. Some research falls into more than one category, so I placed them in the section that was most appropriate.
However, I encourage you to read the first study before diving into the rest of the sections.
SECTION 1: Personality and Emotion – How personality can affect certain areas of our life and the emotions which affect our behavior.
SECTION 2: Thinking and Cognition – Research looking at our cognitive abilities like IQ and memory, and how we think about the world.
SECTION 3: Relationships and Dating – Looking at the world of psychology and dating in a modern world.
SECTION 4: Parenting & Children – Studies that deal with children and the issues that can arise when trying to raise them right.
SECTION 5: Health – Anxiety, Depression, and activities that can affect both physical and mental health.
SECTION 6: Behavior – Understanding others behavior, the things that affect our own, and how to better understand and control it.
SECTION 7: Social Psychology – How we interact and form relationships with friends, families, and others.
SECTION 8: Diet and Nutrition – Findings relating to the food we put in our body and how it affects our thinking and mental health.
(Disclaimer – None of the following should be considered medical advice. It is simply a summary and collection of research findings from 2015, and is meant only for entertainment and informational purposes. As always, you should consult with a doctor or physician for expert medical advice.)
1. Psychology Studies Fail to Replicate
One of the most newsworthy studies of the year. Brian Nosek from the University of Virginia led a team of 270 international researchers in attempting to reproduce results from 100 different studies published in top psychology journals.
The studies fell into two general categories. Cognitive and social psychology. It was one of the largest replications of research ever done.
Unfortunately, they ended up only being able to successfully replicate findings for 36 of the studies. And many of the studies that did replicate found smaller effect sizes than the originals.
While that may seem bleak, it teaches us two important lessons and helps set the stage for the rest of the article.
First, it’s a reminder that results from individual studies shouldn’t automatically be treated as fact. Brian explains this perfectly in a statement he gives to The Guardian:
“The key caution that an average reader should take away is any one study is not going to be the last word. Science is a process of uncertainty reduction, and no one study is almost ever a definitive result on its own.”
The second lesson it illustrates is the fact that we’re all human. Errors can be made intentionally and accidentally.
People aren’t perfect. We’re biased, we’re egotistical, we’re arrogant, and we make mistakes.
We’re all fallible. It doesn’t matter your IQ, occupation, religion, ethnicity, wealth, or politics. We are all vulnerable to cognitive biases and errors in judgment. We rarely know as much as we think we do, even though we act like it.
However, every mistake holds a lesson and every blunder has an opportunity. Rather than view it as a failure, it should instead be seen as a necessary step towards learning, knowledge, and improvement.
I hope you enjoy reading the rest of the studies from 2015. Just make sure you do so with a healthy skepticism.
Personality & Emotion
2. Men Are More Narcissistic Than Women
A classic narcissist move is checking yourself out in the mirror. Because you’re sexy, of course.
But this isn’t the type of narcissism we’re talking about here. In fact, the study from University of Buffalo looked at more than 475,000 people over 30 years and found that men and women are equally vain and self absorbed.
But there was a big gender gap in two narcissistic traits. In the area of entitlement. Which by psychology standards means they are more likely to exploit others and feel entitled to more privileges.
They also noticed a difference in authority, meaning that they’re more assertive and have a larger desire for power.
To make sure that the younger generation just wasn’t more vain in general, the researchers looked at data from past decades. It seems we’re not any more or less vain than those that came before us.
Researchers think gender stereotypes have a lot to do with the difference between men and women. The lack of women in leadership positions may play a role in this regard.
Emily Grijalva from the study explains further:
“Individuals tend to observe and learn gender roles from a young age, and may face backlash for deviating from society’s expectations.
In particular, women often receive harsh criticism for being aggressive or authoritative, which creates pressure for women, more so than for men, to suppress displays of narcissistic behavior.”
3. The Personality Traits Linked to Longer Life
Who knew that certain personality traits could possibly be linked to a longer life.
A psychology study that covered 75 years found that your personality may be able to predict longevity and health outcomes.
The research began in the 1930’s with couples who were about to be married. Personality traits were tested. Also, their friends also reported on their personality traits.
For men, a conscientious and open to experience type personality live longer. But this didn’t hold the same for women. Females who were more agreeable and emotionally stable predicted long life.
One of the curious findings from the study was that it was the rating from friends which more accurately predicted who would live longer.
Researcher Joshua Jackson explains why other people might be better at predicting our personality traits:
“With self reports, people may be biased or miss certain aspects of themselves and we are not able to counteract that because there is only one you, only one self-report.”
Joshua does caution that the results might be different if the study was done today, as gender roles and culture are now different. But he comments on other aspects of the study which are also important:
“It shows how important personality is in influencing significant life outcomes like health and demonstrates that information from friends and other observers can play a critical role in understanding a person’s health issues.”
4. Optimistic People Have Healthier Hearts
Those of you that see the glass as half-full, may have an advantage over your glass half-empty counterparts.
A study published in the journal Health Behavior and Policy Review found that if you have an optimistic outlook on life than chances are you have better cardiovascular health.
The study looked at over 5,100 different adults between the ages of 45 and 84. They were rated according to the American Health Association’s heart-health criteria using 7 metrics.
The metrics included blood pressure, body mass index, fasting plasma glucose and serum cholesterol levels, dietary intake, physical activity and tobacco use.
Higher optimism was associated with higher health scores. People who were the most optimistic were 50% to 76% more likely to be in the intermediate to ideal heart health ranges.
The association was even stronger once certain variables were factored in. Demographics like age, race, ethnicity, income and education
Rosalba Hernandez – one of the researchers – said this:
“At the population level, even this moderate difference in cardiovascular health translates into a significant reduction in death rates.”
5. The Two Types of Extroverts
We know what the general differences are between extroverts and introverts. But there are also differences among the extroverts.
The two different types are labeled “agentic” and “affiliative”. And not only are they different, but they have been found to have slightly different brain structures as well.
The affiliative extroverts are probably the ones you are more familiar with. They are social, friendly, and affectionate.
The agentic extroverts are characterized by persistent, assertive, and are achievement focused. They have a bit more ambition and would be leader types.
Both extroverts had more gray matter in an area of the brain related to decision making and rewards – the medial orbitalfrontal cortex.
The agentic extroverts also had more gray matter in areas related to learning and memory for reward, behavior control and planning.
The scientists weren’t sure if the personality differences were the cause or result of the differences in brain anatomy.
Tara White – an author of the study – commented:
“This is the first glimpse of a benchmark of what the healthy adult brain looks like with these traits.”
6. Spotting Narcissism and Low Self-Esteem on Facebook
Think you are a narcissist or someone with low self-esteem?
Most of you will probably have the knee-jerk reaction of “NO!” But let’s take a look at what your Facebook posts say about you.
Research from Brunel University identified common posts with personality and other traits. Here’s a quick rundown of their results.
- People with low self-esteem post updates about their current romantic partner
- Narcissists post updates about their achievements more frequently. They also had more updates about their diet and exercise routine to broadcast the effort they put into their physical appearance
- Conscientiousness people give more updates about their children
- Extroverts would post updates about social activities and everyday life
- People who rate high in openness to experience were more likely to update about intellectual topics
These shouldn’t be taken as hard and fast rules. But it might give you an indication of what type of person you or someone else might be by seeing what they post the most about.
7. You Can Change Your Personality
Experts used to think that your personality used to be fixed after a certain age. Today, though, many psychologists believe that personality can change over the course of your life.
A new study finds that you may even be able to change your personality if you choose to.
The study took undergraduates and began by asking them what they wanted to change in their personality. Many said they wanted to be more conscientious, outgoing, and nice.
They then made goals around these desires and tailored their behavior to the trait they desired. Researchers tracked them over the course of 16 weeks.
Participants began to see a change in their self-concept, which in turn produced behaviors that were consistent with the personality traits they desired.
The study was one of the first of its kind in the area of personality change. Even though changes were small, it was also over a very short period of time.
The authors write in the study:
“These studies suggest that people may be able to change their self-reported personality traits through volitional means, and represent a first step toward understanding the processes that enable people to do so.”
8. One Key to Charisma is Quick Wit
There are some people who can walk into a room and others seem drawn to them.
While people might find certain characteristics more charismatic than others, a psychology study this year finds one of the keys to charisma is a nimble mind.
You might jump to the conclusion that people with a high IQ may have an edge. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. It’s a bit more complex than that.
What is more important is the speed of the social response. The study included over 400 people. Psychologists found that those people who could answer general knowledge questions quickly were perceived to have more charisma by their friends.
One of the researchers, William von Hippel, explains further:
“Although we expected mental speed to predict charisma, we thought that it would be less important than IQ. Instead, we found that how smart people were was less important than how quick they were.
So knowing the right answer to a tough question appears to be less important than being able to consider a large number of social responses in a brief window of time.”
9. Sexy Men Are Selfish, But Not Women
We expect sexy people to be narcissistic, egotistical, and a little too into themselves. When it comes to selfishness, however, there’s a difference between men and women.
Michael Price was the lead investigator and says this:
“We found that attractive men tended to be less egalitarian and less generous. But that wasn’t the case with attractive women.”
The study found that the more attractive a man was, the more likely he was to be selfish.
Participants were rated on attractiveness and also took tests of personality rating attitudes and behavior. A second group of raters judged them on altruism and egalitarianism when playing an monetary sharing game.
Michael comments on the findings:
“Our results showed that in fact we may be justified in expecting more attractive men to behave in ways that are less favorable to economic and social equality.”
But he cautions against thinking every sexy man is selfish:
“The correlation between attractiveness and selfishness was nowhere close to being perfect, and many very attractive men will also be very altruistic and egalitarian.”
10. Personality Linked to Musical Ability
Psychologists have found that people who are more open to experiences might be more apt with musical instruments. In fact, you don’t even have to play an instrument.
The study finds that those who score high in Openness – those who are imaginative, varied interests, open to change and and new experiences – are likely to have sophisticated musical tastes and musical talent.
Researchers recruited over 7,800 volunteers in the largest study ever done on personality and musical expertise. They tested them on personality and music ability.
Although musical experience was the best predictor of musical ability (makes sense), the next biggest factor was how they scored in Openness.
The senior author on the paper, Jason Rentfrow, states:
“Psychologists had originally focused on the links between personality and musical preferences, but it’s turning out that personality has far more of a pervasive role in our everyday musical experiences, including our musical ability.”
11. Psychopaths Don’t Yawn
Nobody likes creepers. Or psychopaths for that matter.
So what’s a good way to spot a psychopath?
If they don’t exhibit contagious yawning.
Yawning after watching someone else yawn has been linked with social bonding and empathy. Other social animals do it too, including dogs and monkeys.
Students at Baylor University took a personality test gauging their psychopathic tendencies. They then watched short 10 second clips of different facial expressions while having electrodes hooked up to different parts of their face.
The study revealed that the more empathetic someone was, the better chance of them yawning in response.
Brian Rundle from the study has a word of caution though:
“The take-home lesson is not that if you yawn and someone else doesn’t, the other person is a psychopath.
A lot of people didn’t yawn, and we know that we’re not very likely to yawn in response to a stranger we don’t have empathetic connections with.”
So a better indicator would be that if a person doesn’t yawn in response to a friend’s yawn, they may be a bit low on the empathy scale.
12. Awe is a Powerful Emotion
The emotion of awe has been flying under the research radar. While it hasn’t been getting the credit it deserves, it’s power effects are beginning to be seen.
One study from this year found that awe can promote altruistic behavior.
The lead author, Paul Piff, describes awe:
“Our investigation indicates that awe, although often fleeting and hard to describe, serves a vital social function. By diminishing the emphasis on the individual self, awe may encourage people to forgo strict self-interest to improve the welfare of others.”
Paul and his team conducted a series of 5 experiments designed to elicit the feeling of awe and other emotions. The found that awe may have the ability to shift one’s emphasis away from the self.
Another study found that feelings produced by awe can protect against heart disease, depression, and even Alzheimer’s.
Scientists found that when people reported positive feelings throughout their day, their bodies contained less biomarkers of inflammation in their body. The emotion that was most strongly linked to lower levels was awe.
Dacher Keltner from the study commented:
“That awe, wonder and beauty promote healthier levels of cytokines suggests that the things we do to experience these emotions – a walk in nature, losing oneself in music, beholding art – have a direct influence upon health and life expectancy.”
13. The Two Emotions Associated With Heart Attacks
We all have our blood pressure raised from time to time. Annoying drivers, lazy coworkers, or even just having a bad day.
But which two emotions are found to have the biggest effects on our heart?
Anxiety and Anger.
One of the researchers, Thomas Buckley, explains:
“Our findings confirm what has been suggested in prior studies and anecdotal evidence, even in films – that episodes of intense anger can act as a trigger for a heart attack.”
And for anxiety?
“The data also revealed that episodes of anxiety can also make you more likely to have heart attack.”
The risk increase was pretty significant. And it wasn’t just during the emotion filled episode either.
For anger the risk for heart attack increased 8.5 times for two hours after the intense moment. Surprisingly, anxiety was worse. That was found to increase risk by 9.5 times for two hours as well after the anxiety event.
14. Anger Can Affect Your Persuasiveness
Anger affects men and women differently when it comes to persuading others.
A study from Arizona State University found that men who use anger when expressing an opinion are seen as more credible and persuasive.
However, when women use anger to make identical arguments they are seen as more emotional, ultimately making it harder to change another person’s mind.
The study used 210 jury eligible undergraduates and put them in a mock jury situation. Using evidence from a real murder, participants deliberated with others using messages instead of face to face interaction. The participants were unaware that the messages were scripted, however.
Researchers found that the underlying reason for the differences were strictly how we view gender. Jessica Salerno, one of the researchers, comments:
“This effect can’t be explained by women communicating anger less effectively or looking different when they express anger because we took all of that out of the equation.
The effect was due to participants thinking that anger came from a man versus a woman.”
15. Which Emotional Tweet is More Viral
Good and bad moods can spread between people, and the same is true over social networks.
Researchers used an algorithm to analyze more than 3,800 randomly chosen Twitter users and they type of messages they send.
The algorithm measured if a user’s tweets were positive, negative, or neutral in nature. It also analyzed the person’s previous twitter feed.
They found that 20% of people were likely to catch what they call an “emotional contagion”. For those people, over half of their tweets were affected by positive or negative tweets in their feed. However, they were over 4 times more likely to spread positive emotions.
Most people were less likely to be affected by others emotional tweets. However, these people were still twice as likely to tweet something positive than negative depending on their Twitter feeds.
Overall positive emotions were more likely to be contagious.
Emilio Ferrara from the study says:
“What you tweet and share on social media outlets matters. Often, you’re not just expressing yourself — you’re influencing others.”
Thinking & Cognition
16. Closing Your Eyes Actually Helps Your Memory
A study using participants to watch a videotape of a burglary finds evidence that closing your eyes to remember isn’t too far fetched.
Subjects watched a video where an electrician entered a home, did work, and stole items from the property.
Participants were then put into 4 different groups. Some were instructed to shut their eyes or keep them open. Also, some groups had built up rapport with the interviewer, while others had no previous interaction.
They were then asked questions about the details of the robbery.
They found that subjects answered questions correctly 23 percent more of the time with their eyes shut. This was seen for both cases with rapport or no previous interaction from the interviewer (rapport by itself also helped recall).
Closing their eyes also helped people recall more audio and visual details of the robbery video.
17. Naps Are Incredible for Learning
Naps are great. But they’re also great for your brain.
Scientists found that taking a nap ranging from 45 minutes to an hour can boost how much you remember by 5 times.
Participants were required to learn unmatched word pairs. Half then proceeded to watch a DVD while the others took a power nap. Those that had napped had forgotten very little information.
The lead on the study, Alex Mecklinger, elaborates:
The memory performance of the participants who had a power nap was just as good as it was before sleeping, that is, immediately after completing the learning phase.
Even a short sleep lasting 45 to 60 minutes produces a five-fold improvement in information retrieval from memory.”
This can be a boon to anyone trying to remember new information. Alex’s recommendations from the study are this:
“Wherever people are in a learning environment, we should think seriously about the positive effects of sleep.”
18. Our Cognitive Abilities Peak at Different Ages
Work from MIT discovers that some of our cognitive abilities peak later in life. Which is good news for anyone that fears declining mental powers in old age.
Joshua Hartshorne, who was a part of the study, comments:
“At any given age, you’re getting better at some things, you’re getting worse at some other things, and you’re at a plateau at some other things.
There’s probably not one age at which you’re peak on most things, much less all of them.”
Researchers broke down intelligence data into different categories and analyzed the data using different ages. They gathered data from almost 50,000 participants and found no single peak for all abilities.
Here’s a list of some of their results:
Reading another persons emotions peaks between 40 to 50.
Visual short-term memory peaks in the early 30s.
Speed of processing information peaks around 18 to 19.
Short-term memory peaks around 25 and starts to decline around 35.
Vocabulary peaks in the late 60s to early 70s.
Laura Germine was also involved in the research. She says this about the brain:
“If you go into the data on gene expression or brain structure at different ages, you see these lifespan patterns that we don’t know what to make of.
The brain seems to continue to change in dynamic ways through early adulthood and middle age.”
19. Nature Scenes Can Boost Concentration
Taking small breaks and looking at a grassy rooftop was found to boost concentration more than just taking a break alone.
Researcher Kate Lee comments on the study:
“It’s really important to have micro-breaks. It’s something that a lot of us do naturally when we’re stressed or mentally fatigued.
There’s a reason you look out the window and seek nature, it can help you concentrate on your work and to maintain performance across the workday.”
Micro-breaks are short and informal breaks that you take randomly and spontaneously throughout the day.
The experiment gave 150 students a boring task to complete. It required them to press a key as numbers popped up on screen. Unless the number was a 3. The task was designed to require intense focus.
Part way through the task the students were given a 40 second break. Some view the image of a concrete rooftop, while others viewed a rooftop covered with grass and flowers.
The participants who looked at the nature themed rooftop made less errors and had better concentration on the second part of the task as compared to their counterparts.
Authors believed the brief respite boosted brain power to better control their attention.
20. How to Create Durable Memories
Scientists have found how to make memories more permanent.
It’s done through a process called rehearsal. While the method isn’t new, the experiments showed just how powerful the simple, easy technique can be.
Participants in the study watched a series of YouTube clips. For some of the clips they were instructed to spend 40 seconds going over the events out loud or in their head.
The researchers noticed that the same areas of the brain activated during rehearsal as when the clips were first watched. In fact, they could predict how well they would be able to recall the memory depending on how close the brain activity matched.
Not remarkably, the clips that were rehearsed were remembered with much more clarity than the clips that weren’t.
Chris Bird comments on the power of rehearsal:
“We know that recent memories are susceptible to being lost until a period of consolidation has elapsed.
In this study we have shown that a brief period of rehearsal has a huge effect on our ability to remember complex, lifelike events over periods of 1-2 weeks.”
21. The Activity That Gives You Mental Flexibility
Scientists looked at over 100 brains of adults between the ages of 60-80.
While previous research has found strong associations between exercise and healthy brain aging, scientists in the study used accelerometers to objectively measure a person’s physical activity.
They also used MRI to study oxygen levels in the brain when at rest.
The researchers found that on average that older adults who were more active were cognitively more flexible than their sedentary counterparts.
Art Kramer from the study comments on the research:
“Our study, when viewed in the context of previous studies that have examined behavioral variability in cognitive tasks, suggests that more-fit older adults are more flexible, both cognitively and in terms of brain function, than their less-fit peers.”
Researchers also found that the integrity of their brain’s white matter – used for communication of signals within the brain – was better.
This continues to add evidence as to why exercise is a core pillar of a person’s brain health.
22. Why IQ Scores Are On the Rise
IQ scores have steadily rose in developed nations in the past century. About 25 points in the last 90 years.
Scientists call it the “Flynn Effect”, and they aren’t sure what the cause is. Professor David Baker gives us a couple of the big theories:
“There’ve been a lot of hypotheses put forward for the cause of the Flynn Effect, such as genetics and nutrition, but they generally fall flat.”
David and his colleagues conducted 3 studies from cognitive, neurological, and demographic perspectives.
Their findings suggest the answer to the riddle is more schools and more challenging problems that sometimes require multiple strategies that have caused the rise in IQ scores.
“The best neuroscience is now arguing that brains of mammals, including, of course, humans, develop in this heavy genetic-environmental dependent way, so it’s not an either-or situation.”
It seems environment may play a larger role than previously thought. Not to say that genetics still isn’t important. David continues:
“There’s a high genetic component, just like there is for athletic ability, but the environment can enhance people’s abilities up to unknown genetic limits.”
23. Intense Visual Focus Makes Us Deaf
Have you ever had the sensation of driving along looking for a specific turn or address and found yourself turning down your radio?
It may not make sense to want silence when you’re searching for your turn, but researchers have found that sight and sound use the same brain resource. Which explains the instinct to want silence when looking for something.
Concentrating on a demanding visual task can actually make you deaf. Maria Chait from the study explains further:
“We found that when volunteers were performing the demanding visual task, they were unable to hear sounds that they would normally hear.
The brain scans showed that people were not only ignoring or filtering out the sounds, they were not actually hearing them in the first place.”
Researchers watched brain activity of 13 volunteers while they performed an intense visual task. They had a higher failure rate of detecting sounds during demanding tasks even though sounds were clearly audible.
This is the first time researchers have observed this phenomenon – which they call “inattentional deafness” through actual brain activity in real time.
24. How Brain Size and IQ Are Related
If you were asked if a bigger brain means a higher IQ, you might be tempted to say yes.
And you’d be right. But only partially. Scientists have found that brain size plays only a very minor role in cognitive function.
In general, women have slightly smaller brains than men. And yet, IQ.s between the sexes are similar.
Jakob Pietschnig led the study, which looked at over 8,000 brain scans of individuals. He sums up the study with this:
“The presently observed association means that brain volume plays only a minor role in explaining IQ test performance in humans. Although a certain association is observable, brain volume appears to be of only little practical relevance.
Rather, brain structure and integrity appear to be more important as a biological foundation of IQ, whilst brain size works as one of many compensatory mechanisms of cognitive functions.”
So when it comes to a person’s IQ, the biggest factors are how well the brain is connected to itself, as well as its structure.
25. Exercise Boosts Your Ability to Multitask
The ability to multitask, and do it well, is a skill everyone would like to have.
As it turns out, researchers have found that exercise is just such an activity that can help.
Physical fitness boosts your ability to switch between tasks (this is really what “multitasking” is) by enlarging certain parts of your brain. This
This was discovered by giving a dual-task test to 128 older adults. The test measures executive function which is associated with many of the skill used in multitasking. These include working memory, task management, coordination, planning, and inhibition.
Brain scans found larger volumes of grey matter in the areas called anterior cingulate cortex and supplementary motor area.
Art Kramer from the study sums up the research:
“This research adds to our growing understanding of the relationship among physical activity and cognitive and brain function–and suggests that we can improve our brain health by changing our lifestyle even as we age.”
26. Older Adults Better at Correcting Mistakes
One of the big fears of getting older is our declining mental abilities. However, it’s not all bad. In fact certain mental abilities can get better with age.
In a study that looked at over 500 young and old people, it was found that older generations are better at learning from their mistakes.
Both young and old were given a series of general knowledge questions. After answering the questions they were asked about how confident they were about it.
In general, they found that we’re more likely to learn from our mistakes when we are originally highly confident about it. Something about getting the wrong answer when we sure we were right causes us to remember better.
However, older adults were better at correcting mistakes in which they had low confidence in their answers. When scientists looked at the brain scans it turns out the difference was in how the older people were better able to pay attention to those wrong answers.
The authors write:
“The take home message is that there are some things that older adults can learn extremely well, even better than young adults. Correcting their factual errors – all of their errors – is one of them.
There is such a negative stereotype about older adults’ cognitive abilities but our findings indicate that reality may not be as bleak as the stereotype implies.”
27. Humans are Getting Smarter
Evidence from the University of Edinburgh says that as a species we’re getting smarter.
Researchers analyzed data from over 350,000 people from more than 100 studies. They examined a person’s entire genetic make-up.
Their analysis revealed that not only are we getting smarter and think more quickly than our ancestors, but we’re also becoming taller.
The team believes this finding points to evidence that evolution is favoring these human traits.
Peter Joshi was a part of the international team and comments:
“Our research answers questions first posed by Darwin as to the benefits of genetic diversity. Our next step will be to hone in on the specific parts of the genome that most benefit from diversity.”
28. Age Stereotypes Affect Brain Performance
Treating people based on stereotypes instead of an individual human being has consequences.
The same is true for the older generations that have come before us. A number of studies have shown this year that the elderly are affected by negative stereotypes.
We’re not just talking about their self-esteem, but their actual cognitive performance. The more they are reminded of stereotypes of being old, the worse they perform on tests.
One study looked at over 300 people aged between 56 and 96. There memories and hearing were tested, as well as their views on aging and self-perception.
Alison Chasteen comments on the results:
“Those who held negative views about getting older and believed they had challenges with their abilities to hear and remember things, also did poorly on the hearing and memory tests.”
Another study found that negative stereotypes about aging were linked with smaller hippocampi in the brain, as well as an increase in plaques and tangles associated with Alzheimer’s.
29. Sarcasm Can Boost Your Creativity
Creativity is a highly coveted skill. We need it to drive innovation and to solve problems.
Here’s one way to boost creativity. By being sarcastic or by hearing sarcasm from others.
Using higher order thinking skills in determining sarcastic meanings can actually boost our mental creativity.
Francesca Gino from the study says this:
“To create or decode sarcasm, both the expressers and recipients of sarcasm need to overcome the contradiction (i.e., psychological distance) between the literal and actual meanings of the sarcastic expressions.
This is a process that activates and is facilitated by abstraction, which in turn promotes creative thinking.”
What’s more, the researchers found that it boosts creativity for all parties involved in the sarcastic communication. Francesca continues:
“Not only did we demonstrate the causal effect of expressing sarcasm on creativity and explore the relational cost sarcasm expressers and recipients have to endure, we also demonstrated, for the first time, the cognitive benefit sarcasm recipients could reap.”
Participants were put into small groups under different instructions. Some had conversations that were neutral, others that were genuine, and some that were sarcastic. The subjects in the sarcastic groups performed better on tests of creativity following the conversations. (link to article)
30. Your Musical Taste Reveals Your Thinking Style
A survey of over 4,000 people find evidence that your thinking style can predict the type of music you like more than your personality.
The participants took a battery psychology based questionnaires. Later they had to rate 50 pieces of music.
David Greenberg, who led the study, gives a quick overview of the findings:
“Although people’s music choices fluctuates over time, we’ve discovered a person’s empathy levels and thinking style predicts what kind of music they like.
In fact, their cognitive style – whether they’re strong on empathy or strong on systems – can be a better predictor of what music they like than their personality.”
The study itself, however only focused on two different types of thinking styles. What the researchers grouped into “empathy” and “systems”.
People strong in empathy preferred music with low energy, sad and depressing characteristics, or emotional depth.
Sytemizers preferred high energy music, positive emotions, which also featured high degree of complexity.
Here’s a quick sample of songs that have been grouped into the two respective categories.
High on empathy
- Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley
- Come Away With Me – Norah Jones
- All of Me – Billie Holliday
- Crazy Little Thing Called Love – Queen
High on systemizing
- Concerto in C – Antonio Vivaldi
- Etude Opus 65 No 3 – Alexander Scriabin
- God Save the Queen – The Sex Pistols
- Enter the Sandman – Metallica
31. Early TV Habits Affect Midlife Brain Power
The benefits of exercise are well established. And scientists are beginning to uncover the detrimental effects of sedentary behavior.
Does science say anything about TV viewing time specifically?
A study this year asked about TV’s effect on our cognition. The research looked at over 3,200 adults over the course of 25 years.
Repeated visits had participants cognitive abilities assessed in the areas of processing speed, executive function, and verbal memory. They were also questioned about their physical activities and TV viewing habits.
Participants with high amounts of television viewing (more than 3 hours a day) for most of their visits were found to score significantly lower on two of the cognitive tests: processing speed and executive function.
And those with excessive viewing habits and low physical activity were found to be twice as likely to score lower on the 2 non-verbal tests.
The authors sum up the research:
“In this biracial cohort followed for 25 years, we found that low levels of physical activity and high levels of television viewing during young to mid-adulthood were associated with worse cognitive performance in midlife.”
32. Hearing Something Repeatedly Makes Us Believe It
New research shows that if we hear something enough, we are more likely to believe it.
We are amidst political campaigns for 2016, and you may see this as a common strategy among political candidates, or even in friendly debates with your friends. It’s also how false information becomes fact through gossip and rumor.
Psychologists call this the “illusory truth effect”. And many assumed that it really only works when someone might not be educated on the issue or completely unfamiliar with it.
Even if you know it’s false, though, researchers find that people are still susceptible to this type of misinformation.
They find that our brain has a tendency to believe information if it’s easier to understand or grasp. And if we’ve heard the information before, this causes us to believe something even if we are aware of knowledge that contradicts it.
The authors sum up the results by writing:
“Repetition increased perceived truthfulness, even for contradictions of well-known facts.”
33. Considering Yourself an Expert Can Make You Close-Minded
Being an expert in your field is usually considered a good thing.
But it may not all be good. Psychologists found across 6 experiments that when perceiving yourself as an expert, you might be more close-minded to new ideas.
One of the experiments had researchers manipulate subjects’ perceptions of knowledge and expertise through hard or easy questions on selected topics. Those participants whose ego was boosted were more likely to be close-minded to others on the same topic.
The authors contribute part of this phenomenon to social context. Another experiment showed that people found it socially acceptable for an expert to reject ideas from those that might be more of a novice on a subject.
Overall, it was the perception of high expertise that increased closed-mindedness. Something they called “Earned Dogmatism”.
34. Eldest Children Have a Higher IQ
If you’re the oldest child in the family, you officially might have some bragging rights. Eldest children were found to have a higher IQ of about 1 point.
This is confirmed by a study of over 370,000 high school students. They also found that older siblings were more outgoing, conscientious, and agreeable. They were also less anxious.
However, the differences in IQ is small.
Brent Roberts who was a part of the study explains how small:
“You are not going to be able to see it with the naked eye. You’re not going to be able to sit two people down next to each other and see the differences between them.
It’s not noticeable by anybody.”
And for any parents out there there’s another piece of advice from Rodica Damian, who was also a part of the study:
“The message of this study is that birth order probably should not influence your parenting, because it’s not meaningfully related to your kid’s personality or IQ.”
35. Googling Gives Illusion of Knowledge
We search the internet every day. To shop, buy, answer questions, and learn.
Psychologists have found that there’s also a unfortunate side effect of this pervasive technology. It gives us the feeling that we know more than we really do.
This feeling can even happen on topics which are totally unrelated to things we are searching for. Or even if we are unsuccessful with our search.
The researchers speculate that this sense of inflated knowledge might come simply from the act of searching. This was found in 9 different experiments which the researchers performed.
One such experiment had people look up an answer to a question, while others couldn’t use outside sources of information. Afterward, both groups were given 4 unrelated questions and asked to rate how well they could answer them.
Those that had used the internet believed they could provide better explanations. Mathew Fisher who led the research said:
“The Internet is an enormous benefit in countless ways, but there may be some tradeoffs that aren’t immediately obvious and this may be one of them.
Accurate personal knowledge is difficult to achieve, and the Internet may be making that task even harder.”
36. Reliance on Smartphones Linked to Lower IQ
As technology becomes increasingly important, we have to be aware of how it can affect our own thinking processes.
Psychologists have found that reliance of smartphones have been linked with weaker thinking skills.
In 3 studies using over 660 people, researchers measured participants thinking styles, verbal and number skills, as well as cellphone habits.
They found that people who had stronger cognitive skills and thought analytically (as opposed to intuitively) used the search function on their phones less.
Their results also indicated that use of entertainment apps and social media did not correlate to higher or lower cognitive abilities.
That doesn’t mean that cell phone use lowers intelligence, however. Gordon Pennycock from the study explains:
“Our research provides support for an association between heavy smartphone use and lowered intelligence.
Whether smartphones actually decrease intelligence is still an open question that requires future research.”
37. Music Can Alter Gene Expression
As it turns out, listening to classical music can actually affect you on the cellular level.
To be clear, it doesn’t change your DNA. But it does affect how genes are transcribed – how our genetic code is expressed or turned into proteins.
Participants listened to one of Mozart’s classical pieces. Researchers took blood samples just before and right after listening to the music for 20 minutes.
Results from the blood work showed extra activity in levels of dopamine and genes involved in neurotransmission, memory, and learning. It also suppressed other genes known to be involved in neurodegeneration.
There was a pretty big caveat, however.
This result was only found in musically experienced people. The authors write:
“The effect was only detectable in musically experienced participants, suggesting the importance of familiarity and experience in mediating music-induced effects.”
Relationships & Dating
38. Emails Are More Romantic Than Voicemails
You would think that a voicemail would be more personal and intimate than some sort of electronic message.
But research this year, says that we communicate our emotions better through email than a voicemail.
The authors of the study write:
“When writing romantic e-mails, senders consciously or subconsciously added more positive content to their messages, perhaps to compensate for the medium’s inability to convey vocal tone.”
Researchers had 72 undergraduates compose 2 messages – either romantic or neurtral – in both email and voicemail format. Their emotional responses were recorded during the process.
The authors found that the sender had more emotional arousal when sending the emails than the voicemail. As for the message itself, the scientists write:
“We found that romantic e-mail messages contained the most positive emotional content (and) romantic voice mails contained the least positive emotional content.”
They didn’t study how these messages were received, so just make sure you don’t proclaim your undying love for someone after the first date.
39. How Cell Phones Can Kill Your Relationship
With cell phones becoming a part of our normal every day life, there’s a new type of behavior that is ruining relationships.
The term is called “phubbing”, which is short for phone snubbing. This happens when you pay attention to your phone instead of the people around you.
Psychologists have found that the behavior can cause conflict and decline in relationship satisfaction, and may even lead to depression.
James Roberts reports their findings:
“What we discovered was that when someone perceived that their partner phubbed them, this created conflict and led to lower levels of reported relationship satisfaction.
These lower levels of relationship satisfaction, in turn, led to lower levels of life satisfaction and, ultimately, higher levels of depression.”
Examples of phubbing include checking your phone when there’s a lull in conversation, glancing at the cell phone when in conversation, keeping the cell phone in your hand, and placing the cell phone on the table or in plain sight when together.
40. The Type of People Who Stay in Unhappy Marriages
Have you ever wondered why some people stay in an unhappy marriage?
You can tell they aren’t happy. They’ve even gone as far as telling you so. So why not just cut your losses and start anew?
Why it might be an easy solution looking from the outside, there’s usually some type of inner struggle going on inside.
And researchers find that part of the problem might be low self-esteem.
Not only are people with low self-esteem more likely to stay in an unhappy marriage, they’re also less likely to complain about problems.
This may surprise some. Many people believe that others with low self-esteem might be more negative and tend to complain more. Not less. In romantic partnerships this may not be the case, though.
Which is unfortunate, because researchers found that not speaking up about problems actually make the problem worse. Not speaking up means more overall dissatisfaction.
Megan McCarthy, a researcher involved with the work, says:
“We’ve found that people with a more negative self-concept often have doubts and anxieties about the extent to which other people care about them.
This can drive low self-esteem people toward defensive, self-protective behavior, such as avoiding confrontation.”
41. More Sex Won’t Make You Happier
Previous research, along with the advice of many love gurus, says that more sex will make you closer with your partner.
Research published in November of 2015 finds that this advice is pretty unfounded. When scientists analyzed data of over 30,000 Americans over 4 decades, they found that more sex doesn’t equal more happiness.
But there’s a small caveat. They found that this happened when couples had sex more than once per week. So if you’re having sex less than once a week, then it very well could boost relationship and life satisfaction.
The lead researcher, Amy Muise, says:
“Although more frequent sex is associated with greater happiness, this link was no longer significant at a frequency of more than once a week.
Our findings suggest that it’s important to maintain an intimate connection with your partner, but you don’t need to have sex everyday as long as you’re maintaining that connection.”
42. How to Date Someone Out of Your League
Have you ever seen a couple and wondered how the scrub landed a smoking hot girl?
There’s a chance that he was probably put in the friend zone.
While most of the advice out there tells you to stay out of the friend zone, new research reveals that it could be a viable dating strategy.
Psychologists video taped 167 couples, both dating and married, to talk about their relationship. Another set of independently trained coders also rated the couples on physical attractiveness.
They found that when couples who were similar in physical attractiveness the shorter amount of time they had known each other before dating. Couples that had known each other longer before dating were more likely to have different levels of attractiveness. This was also found to be true for couples that were friends before dating.
Researchers also noticed that both couples, friends first or stranger first relationships, were equally happy years later.
Lucy hunt, who was involved in the study, said:
“Having more time to get acquainted may allow other factors, such as another person’s compatibility as a relationship partner, to make that person appealing in ways that outshine more easily observable characteristics such as physical attractiveness.”
43. Non-Conformists are Sexy to Men and Women
A study looking at what we find attractive in members of the opposite sex, finds that we prefer someone who stands out in the crowd as opposed to someone who blends in. This goes for both men and women.
Matthew Hornsey led the study and says:
“Nonconformity is more attractive than conformity for women and men. People think that men prefer conformist women, but this impression is discrepant from reality.”
Through five different studies, Matthew and his team found consistent results. One study revealed that women thought men would prefer conformist women, although the results never showed this.
To see if culture or values would change this preference, they did another study looking at people in the US, UK, and India. The authors write this about the result:
“…people who displayed nonconformist personality traits also reported higher levels of romantic achievement and satisfaction.”
Yet another study found that when people were prompted to think about their exes, the more they judged them as non-conformist the more they were attracted to them. This also held true for men and women.
I’m sure there were limits to how radical these non-conformists were. But the results seem to say that you shouldn’t be afraid to let your freak flag fly.
44. Helping Others Will Help You Find Love
If you find yourself single and hating it, here’s a tip from science.
Stop going to the bars, and instead go help others.
Psychologists find that lending a helping hand increases your chance of being in a relationship. The researchers write:
“Among single individuals, engaging in pro-social behavior in any given year was associated with increased odds of finding a partner and entering into a romantic relationship in the following year.”
Data from over 12,000 participants were gathered annually for 10 years. It measured their social activity, how often they helped family and friends, and relationship status among other statistics.
They found that the more people were engaged in pro-social behaviors, the more likely to have a change in relationship status the following year.
This results even held even after accounting for overall level of social activity. The data also suggested that helping others was the cause of the relationship change. People who started a relationship didn’t see an increase in helping behavior compared to singles.
45. Drinking Can Actually Make You More Attractive
Just so we clear this up right away.
We’re not talking about beer goggles. That makes other people look more attractive when you drink.
We’re talking about how drinking makes you look more attractive. Sounds hard to believe right?
Researchers had volunteers rate the attractiveness of a person in different pictures. The different pictures were taken when they were sober, after 250ml of wine, or after 500ml of wine.
The people who had consumed 250ml of wine – about a glass or 1/3 a bottle – were rated as more attractive than when they were sober.
However, the picture taken after 500ml – didn’t have the same effect. These pictures were not as attractive to the raters.
The scientists speculate that the changes in rating levels might be due to the flushing of the face may signal something in evolutionary brain that makes this look appear attractive and a sign of a healthy mate.
It could also be that consumption of low levels of alcohol may relax facial muscles or produce ever so slight smiles because of increased mood.
46. More Chores Means More Sex for Men
Men seem to be the ones that stereotypically think that there isn’t enough sex in the relationship.
Well maybe it’s about time they get off the couch and help around the house.
A psychology study finds that men that do their fair share around their house not only have more sex, but it’s also more satisfying.
This comes from data of over 1,300 German couples.
This may make you wonder about context. Wouldn’t there be some differences in culture and gender roles between German and US couples?
Matt Johnson addresses this question:
“There are cultural differences but if the logic held from the prior studies, we would have expected to have a more pronounced negative impact of housework on sexuality in Germany because it’s a bit more traditional.
But that wasn’t the case at all.”
So it’s time to man up with the chores fellas. If you show appreciation for your partner by lifting a hand, they may very well show you appreciation in the bedroom.
47. 4 Reasons Why Humor is Attractive
Both sexes are always saying they want someone with a great sense of humor. But have you ever wondered why?
Many people believe that humor is a sign of intelligence. And that intelligence is something that people are looking for in a partner. However, researcher Jeffrey Hall didn’t find this as a factor in his study of laughing and love.
He did find, though, that the more jokes a man made and the more times a woman laughed could predict how interested she was. This didn’t hold true for women who tried to be funny though.
Another predictor of interest was how often the couple would laugh together.
Jeffrey believes there are actually 4 reasons why laughter makes us fall in love.
1. It’s a display of an agreeable and social personality.
2. We can use humor to gauge if the other party is interested.
3. It follows a traditional gender role that men are the jokers and women are the laughers.
4. People genuinely value humor and can lead to bonding and a long lasting relationship.
48. Why Gratitude is Important in Marriage
Everyone wants a strong relationship with their significant other. Life can be rough, though, so what’s the secret to weathering the storms?
Researchers find that gratitude may play a major role in how a couple interacts and whether or not they make it over the long haul. It is a key to positive marital outcomes.
Ted Futris from the study comments on the results:
“We found that feeling appreciated and believing that your spouse values you directly influences how you feel about your marriage, how committed you are to it, and your belief that it will last.”
They asked over 460 married individuals about financial well-being, communication, and expressions of gratitude in the relationship.
The most significant predictor of marital quality was spousal expression of gratitude. They also found that the negative effects of poor communication and conflict could be counteracted through gratitude.
Gratitude in the study was measured by how much individuals felt appreciated and valued by their spouse, as well as acknowledged when they did something nice.
49. Men Only Say They Like Smart Women
Warning: Men May Be Jerks.
They also might be lying jerks.
Not to rag on the male species, but it looks like we definitely have room for improvement. A study says that we say we like smart women. Until it actually comes to finding a smart woman.
Lora Park, the lead on the study, gives us the dirty details:
“We found that men preferred women who are smarter than them in psychologically distant situations.
Men rely on their ideal preferences when a woman is hypothetical or imagined.
But in live interaction, men distanced themselves and were less attracted to a woman who outperformed them in intelligence.”
Don’t get on your high horse yet ladies. Unfortunately, men were the only ones examined in the study. So it may very well be that you suffer from the same bias as us men.
There’s another caveat as well. Lora said that the domain matters. That is, if a guy doesn’t really care about intelligence, then he won’t be threatened by how smart, or unintelligent, she really is.
So not every guy is intimidated by intelligence. But to throw in an appropriate cliché:
Be careful what you wish for.
50. Women Take Breakups Harder, But Recover Better
After a survey of over 5,700 people in about 100 countries, it was found that women experience more emotional pain after a breakup.
However, given enough time they would also more fully recover from that breakup than a man would.
There’s some evolutionary history behind the emotions. Researcher Craig Morris gives us the theory behind the results:
“Put simply, women are evolved to invest far more in a relationship than a man.
A brief romantic encounter could lead to nine months of pregnancy followed by many years of lactation for an ancestral woman, while the man may have ‘left the scene’ literally minutes after the encounter, with no further biological investment.”
And for the men, Craig says this:
“The man will likely feel the loss deeply and for a very long period of time as it ‘sinks in’ that he must ‘start competing’ all over again to replace what he has lost — or worse still, come to the realization that the loss is irreplaceable.”
Parenting & Children
51. Parents Usually Misjudge Child Happiness
Research from the University of Plymouth finds that parent’s are usually wrong when it comes to guessing how happy they think their child is.
Parents would overestimate their child’s happiness when they were 10 to 11 years old. They would then underestimate happiness when their child was 15 to 16 years old.
They surveyed over 350 children and their parents using a variety of reporting measure
What as actually happening?
The scientists noticed that parents would rate their child depending on how they were emotionally feeling. So if a parent wasn’t particularly happy, then they would rate their child lower in happiness.
This can be important, as kids are going through some crucial development during these times. Belen Lopez-Perez from the study stresses this:
“Being unable to read children’s happiness appropriately may increase misunderstanding between parents and children/adolescents, which has been shown to have negative consequences for parent-child relationships.
Furthermore, parents might not be able to provide the appropriate emotional support or attend to their children’s needs accurately.”
52. How Children Can Become Aggressive
An international study looked at aggressive behavior in close to 1,300 children from 12 cultural backgrounds in 9 countries.
Not only did they find an underlying cause of aggression but they also discovered which country had the most aggressive children.
Psychologists found that children who expect aggression from others are more likely to be aggressive themselves. Children were rated based on observations and answers they gave to ambiguous situations that could be seen as hostile or non-hostile.
Kenneth Dodge was involved in the study and comments:
“When a child infers that he or she is being threatened by someone else and makes an attribution that the other person is acting with hostile intent, then that child is likely to react with aggression.
This study shows that this pattern is universal in every one of the 12 cultural groups studied worldwide.”
Jordan and Italy had some of the most aggressive children while Sweden and China had some of the least aggressive.
Kenneth leaves us with a bit of advice taking from the results:
“By teaching our children to give others the benefit of the doubt, we will help them grow up to be less aggressive, less anxious and more competent.”
53. How Parents Can Instill Lifelong Happiness in Children
Positive psychology researchers identified two parental characteristics that produced higher levels of happiness throughout a person’s life.
The study tracked over 5,300 people who were born in 1946. Then over sixty years later, approximately 2,000 of them followed up with surveys.
It was found that parents that were psychologically controlling or lacked warmth had a negative effect on their children’s happiness. Controlling parents were also likely to invade their child’s privacy and didn’t allow children to form their own opinions.
In contrast, parents who allowed their children to make decisions and encouraged independence had happier children.
These effects of parenting were still evident for a person’s mental well-being well into their 60s.
Parental warmth was also a key factor in happiness down the road. Scientists found that a strong emotional bond with their parents allowed children to more readily face obstacles in the outside world.
Mia Stafford from the study sums up the findings:
“We found that people whose parents showed warmth and responsiveness had higher life satisfaction and better mental wellbeing throughout early, middle and late adulthood.”
54. The Age When Children Develop Self-Esteem
Children develop there self-esteem earlier than many would imagine. The lead author of the study explains best:
“Our work provides the earliest glimpse to date of how preschoolers sense their selves. We found that as young as 5 years of age self-esteem is established strongly enough to be measured and we can measure it using sensitive techniques.
Self-esteem appears to play a critical role in how children form various social identities. Our findings underscore the importance of the first five years as a foundation for life.”
Measuring self-esteem in young children required using a new technique. Tests used to measure self-esteem had been based on adults.
These tests usually contained complex concepts and required reading, which young children may not be able to do. So scientists created a more appropriate test that could measure a young child’s budding sense of self using association with more tangible objects and concepts.
Researchers now want to discover what type of parent/child interactions build self-esteem in preschoolers.
55. Teaching Your Child to Eat Healthy
A parent’s job is never done. One of the most important things you need to teach your children that can affect them throughout life is how to eat healthy.
Parents have more influence than they believe when it comes to a child’s diet throughout their life. A study that looked at what kids in college ate was profoundly influenced by what they were exposed to in childhood. 670 college students were questioned about their background of 122 food items.
The researchers write:
“The perceived recollection of frequent consumption of foods in childhood was significantly related to current liking for the vast majority of the foods, including nutritious foods such as vegetables.”
What about the foods they didn’t like? They continue:
“Similarly, parental encouragement and modeling was positively related to current liking, even for foods that were disliked in childhood.”
The authors also found that if the college students didn’t eat much of a certain type of food in childhood, it led to a stronger disliking as an adult.
The study also found that foods that participants were forced to eat as a child they ended up disliking more. It was shown as a strategy that usually backfired. This was also true of food they were forbidden to eat.
It seems one of the best ways to instill healthy eating, is leading by example.
56. Being the Favorite Child Has a Disadvantage
Research discovered that being a mommy’s boy can carry a disadvantage. And we’re not talking about being made fun of by your mates on the playground.
I’ll let Jill Suitor – one of the authors on the study – explain:
“There is a cost for those who perceive they are the closest emotionally to their mothers, and these children report higher depressive symptoms, as do those who experience the greatest conflict with their mothers or who believe they are the children in whom their mothers are the most disappointed.”
They studied over 700 adult children in over 300 families across 7 years.
Children who were closest to their mother were more likely to be depressed.
Also, children who thought there mother was most disappointed in them were also more likely to be depressed. This was particularly strong in black families.
57. Avoid Raising a Narcissistic Child
An interesting and unique new study tried to pinpoint when people begin to express narcissism and what may be driving it.
The study revealed that the critical age is around 7 to 11. And the parenting style may have a lot to do with it.
Parents who bring up their child to believe they are extra-special may not being doing them any good. Overvaluing the children could be setting them up for narcissism later.
Brad Bushman, who was involved in the research, said this about his own parenting style:
“When I first started doing this research in the 1990s, I used to think my children should be treated like they were extra-special. I’m careful not to do that now.
It is important to express warmth to your children because that may promote self-esteem, but overvaluing them may promote higher narcissism.”
It seems parents who think their child is better than other children, may be instilling a narcisstic attitude into their children.
So the takeaway? Be emotionally warm to your children. Don’t overvalue them to the point where they believe themselves superior to others.
58. Childhood Self-Control Predicts Unemployment
Most of us wish that we had more disciplined mind. More self-control would certainly come in handy when trying not to eat those cookies or get off the couch when we’re eating order-in Chinese food.
Researchers say that the self-control we develop in childhood would also help us stay employed.
The lead from the research, Michael Daly, comments on the study:
“The study highlights the importance of early life self-control as a powerful predictor of job prospects in adulthood.”
They used data from two large studies that included more than 15,000 British children.
They measured self-control at ages as young as 7, and adjusted for intelligence, background, and health factors. The study also noted that self-control was able to predict unemployment as much, if not more than, intelligence.
Scientists also found that they were the first to lose employment during recessions. And also found it the hardest to become a part of the workforce again.
Michael gives us a possible solution to this problem, which parents may want to pay attention to:
“Developing greater self-control in childhood, when the capacity for self-control is particularly malleable, could help buffer against unemployment during recessions and bring long-term benefits to society, through increased employment rates and productivity.”
59. Breakfast is Important for Education
Many of us believe that breakfast is a good way to start the day. We’ve been hearing this message from our parents since childhood.
But how important is it for learning? A researcher, Hannah Littlecot, looked into it and finds:
“While breakfast consumption has been consistently associated with general health outcomes and acute measures of concentration and cognitive function, evidence regarding links to concrete educational outcomes has until now been unclear.”
The research looked at a direct link between the two. Over 5,000 children from ages 9 to 11. It is the largest study to date looking at school performance.
Not only did it find that kids who ate breakfast did better in school, but they found that it was eating a better quality breakfast that made a difference. If you ate sweet in the morning, there was no performance benefit.
The authors believe the implications of the study are important for for health and education policy.
60. Adolescent Brain Sensitive to These 3 Things
Scientists show evidence that there are certain times in our life where our brain is primed for certain events in our environment.
Adolescence may be one of those key times where the brain is in a crucial period of development. Particularly, they are especially sensitive to new memories, stress, and taking risks.
We tend to have stronger memories between the ages of 10 to 30 more than before or after that age range. Social stress, such as bullying or abuse can be linked to psychological problems later. Drug and alcohol use also seem to peak around this age.
While there is preliminary evidence that young brains are affected differently for these three areas, further evidence is still needed.
“Conclusively proving that adolescent sensitive periods exist will require studies comparing children, adolescents, and adults and will need to take into account individual differences in adolescent development.”
61. Gratitude Literally Heals the Heart
If you’ve ever had the unfortunate experience of having a heart failure, there might be a faster way to recover.
In a rather poetic scientific finding, researchers found that by expressing what’s in your heart could make it stronger after a developing a cardiovascular problem.
Once a heart problem develops symptoms it’s been found to raise the risk of death 5 times. Scientists wanted to figure out what factors could keep these people from getting worse.
Patients were asked about gratitude and spirituality in their lives. They found that one of these two was key in improving a person’s heart health. Paul Mills from the study tells us this:
“We found that spiritual well-being was associated with better mood and sleep, but it was the gratitude aspect of spirituality that accounted for those effects, not spirituality per se.”
Over eight weeks, some of the patients were instructed to record 3 things they were grateful for every day. Paul reports how this activity manifested itself physically:
“We found that those patients who kept gratitude journals for those eight weeks showed reductions in circulating levels of several important inflammatory biomarkers, as well as an increase in heart rate variability while they wrote.
Improved heart rate variability is considered a measure of reduced cardiac risk.”
62. Meditation Reduces Brain Shrinkage
The brain shrinks as we get older. Don’t freak out, it’s normal.
There might just be a way to slow the process though.
Researchers looked at the brain scans between people who meditated on a regular basis and those who didn’t. They found that the decline in gray matter was much less pronounced in the brain’s of meditated on a regular basis.
Florian Kurth from the study comments on their surprise:
“We expected rather small and distinct effects located in some of the regions that had previously been associated with meditating.
Instead, what we actually observed was a widespread effect of meditation that encompassed regions throughout the entire brain.”
The sample size of the experiment was small, but Eileen Luders – another researcher – acknowledges this:
“Still, our results are promising. Hopefully they will stimulate other studies exploring the potential of meditation to better preserve our aging brains and minds.”
63. Purpose in Life Protects Your Health
It was found this year that having meaning in life can have an effect on your cardiovascular health and increase the number of years you live.
Scientists pooled data from 10 studies and over 136,000 patients from both the US and Japan.
Having a strong sense of purpose was found to lower the risk of death by one-fifth. It was also linked to lower risk of cardiovascular events.
While the exact mechanisms behind having more meaning in life aren’t clear, the scientists have a couple of theories. It may translate psychologically through responses to stress, or behaviorally through healthier lifestyle activities.
Alan Rozanski, who was a part of the study, relates the importance of the research:
“…the medical implications of living with a high or low sense of life purpose have only recently caught the attention of investigators.
The current findings are important because they may open up new potential interventions for helping people to promote their health and sense of well-being.”
64. Sitting Too Long May Increase Anxiety
As if any of us need to have more anxiety in our lives.
Researchers from Australia have found that activities that require us to sit in our seats for prolonged periods of time may be making ourselves more anxious.
Sedentary behaviors have been linked to obesity and heart disease. However, scientists were curious if rising levels of anxiety in society were linked to our increasing sedentary behaviors.
They identified and analyzed 9 studies looking at the relationship between anxiety and sedentary behavior.
4 of the studies found that total sitting time was associated with anxiety. 5 of the studies found a link between an increases in sitting and increases in those people’s anxiety.
The scientists suspect that possible causes between the two may be a result of disturbed sleep patterns, social withdrawal, or poor metabolic health.
Megan Teychenne from the study emphasizes the this area of research:
“It is important that we understand the behavioral factors that may be linked to anxiety — in order to be able to develop evidence-based strategies in preventing/managing this illness.”
65. The 6 Biggest Signs of Depression
Depression gets mentioned in the media quite a bit. But how can you really tell if someone is depressed or just having a normal downswing in mood?
The DSM – which is a comprehensive classification of mental disorders used by psychiatrists – diagnoses depression after patients have a certain number of symptoms.
However, a group of researchers were unsatisfied with this approach. Eiko Fried led the study and explains the problem:
“We need to stop thinking of depression as a disease that causes a number of interchangeable symptoms.
Depression is a complex, extremely heterogeneous system of interacting symptoms. And some of these symptoms may be far more important than others.”
The scientists conducted a comprehensive review looking at 28 symptoms from close to 3,500 patients.
They found that some symptoms were more central to depression than others. Some were even non-DSM symptoms. The top six are listed below:
1. Loss of Energy
3. Sympathetic Arousal (sweating, palpitations, tremors, blurred vision)
4. Loss of Interest
5. Loss of Pleasure
6. Concentration Problems
66. Acts of Kindness Can Reduce Social Anxiety
We can all be a little shy. Being around no one you know can be awkward, confusing, and of course a bit uncomfortable.
Social anxiety is worse. It can be debilitating and absolutely frightening. And it cause people from the experiencing life as normal.
However a couple of researchers were curious about how to reduce social anxiety, so those people wouldn’t lose out on friendships and social connections.
They found that performing acts of kindness can help these people view their world as less threatening.
Subjects were put into one of three groups over four weeks. One group performed acts of kindness. Another group were exposed to social interactions, and the third group simply acted as a control group (they didn’t do anything special).
It was the group that performed acts of kindness who ultimately felt more comfortable in social situations. One of the study’s researchers – Jennifer Trew summed it up by saying this:
“Acts of kindness may help to counter negative social expectations by promoting more positive perceptions and expectations of a person’s social environment.
It helps to reduce their levels of social anxiety and, in turn, makes them less likely to want to avoid social situations.”
67. Sleeping on Your Side is Good for Brain Health
Do you sleep on your back? On your side? Maybe you’re a side sleeper.
Psychologists are fascinated by how people sleep and what it says about their personality. However, other scientists are more curious about how your body functions in those positions.
Researchers have found that sleeping on your side allows your system to better clear toxic waste from the brain as opposed to sleeping on your stomach or back.
Helene Benveniste from the study elaborates:
“The analysis showed us consistently that glymphatic transport was most efficient in the lateral position when compared to the supine or prone positions.”
Experts suspect that the buildup of waste chemicals – like amyloid buildup and tau proteins – could contribute to dementia and other neurological diseases.
The researchers also believe that this may be one of the reasons why sleeping on your side is already the most popular position in humans and other animals.
Dr. Nedergaard, also involved in the research, says this:
“The study therefore adds further support to the concept that sleep subserves a distinct biological function of sleep and that is to ‘clean up’ the mess that accumulates while we are awake.”
68. Washing Dishes Can Reduce Your Anxiety
New research brings together a weird combination of mundane chores and a hint of meditation.
Surprisingly, it was found that something as simple as the everyday task of washing dishes could reduce your anxiety by doing them in a mindful fashion.
They took two groups and had them each wash dishes. One group, however, were given instructions to do the dishes in a particular fashion. To pay attention to the sensations and smells while performing the activity.
Those who practiced the mindful dishwashing decreased anxiety by 27% and increased mental inspiration by 25%.
The authors write:
“It is interesting to note that a task potentially construed as unpleasant or a “chore” can be experienced as reducing nervousness and being inspirational by simply shifting one’s approach to the task and quality of attention.”
69. How Early Life Stress Can Cause Depression Later
Adolescence is an important time of growth and development for kids. Researchers found that traumatic and stressful events in a child’s life during this time can affect them years later.
The study observed over 100 adolescents between the ages of 11 to 15. They had brain scans a few years apart and were questioned about any abuse or neglect.
One of the researchers, Jamie Hanson, states their results:
“Our analyses revealed that over a two-year window during early to mid-adolescence, there was an abnormal decrease in the response of the ventral striatum to reward only in adolescents who had been exposed to emotional neglect, a relatively common form of childhood adversity where parents are persistently emotionally unresponsive and unavailable to their children.”
The ventral striatum she mentions is a brain structure associated with positive emotions, reward, and pleasure.
This is why early life stress can decrease the ability to feel enthusiasm and experience pleasure. It also explains why children of abuse and neglect can make them more likely to have depression later in life.
70. Mindfulness Can Reduce Pain
Even people that have only had brief training in mindfulness meditation were able to lower pain. And it worked better than a placebo.
If that makes you laugh, don’t worry. But scientific evidence has shown that the power of placebo in pain reduction is a very real thing.
What’s even more interesting about the study is that when looking at brain scans, they discovered the mechanisms for reducing pain were completely different.
Fadel Zeidan was the lead on the study and commented on the finding:
“We were completely surprised by the findings.
While we thought that there would be some overlap in brain regions between meditation and placebo, the findings from this study provide novel and objective evidence that mindfulness meditation reduces pain in a unique fashion.”
The placebo topical cream was found to reduce phsyical pain by 11% and the emotional pain by 13%. The meditation practitioners, though, reduced physical pain by 27% and emotional pain by 44%.
71. Anxiety Increases Risk of Dementia
It’s bad news for anyone who finds themselves constantly anxious.
Research from USC finds that anxiety may increase your risk for dementia by 48 percent.
The result comes from a study of over 1,000 twins in a 28 year study.
The twins completed in-person tests and questionnaires every 3 years. They were also screened for dementia. The twin who developed dementia during the study was found to have higher levels of anxiety.
The scientists believe the cause behind the increase in cognitive problems may stem from the stress hormone cortisol. The hormone has been shown to damage parts of the brain involved in memory and high-level thinking.
While other studies have looked at depression and neurotic behavior as factors of dementia, the study establishes anxiety as an independent variable.
Andrew Petkus, who was involved in the research, states:
“Depression seems more evident in adulthood, but it’s usually episodic. Anxiety, though, tends to be a chronic lifelong problem, and that’s why people tend to write off anxiety as part of someone’s personality.”
72. The Brain Had an Unknown Connection to Our Immune System
One of the biggest surprises of the year came from the discovery of a new type of vessel in the brain. A previously unknown connection to the immune system.
The new discovery provides new avenues to look at neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and autism. It’s a big revelation for researchers in the neuro-immune system.
Scientists located the vessels in the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord. They also run close to major blood vessels, which is one of the reason’s why they haven’t been located until now.
From the study, researcher Jonathon Kipnis says,
“Instead of asking, ‘How do we study the immune response of the brain?’ ‘Why do multiple sclerosis patients have the immune attacks?’ now we can approach this mechanistically.
Because the brain is like every other tissue connected to the peripheral immune system through meningeal lymphatic vessels.
It changes entirely the way we perceive the neuro-immune interaction.”
Jonathon continues about how surprising the new find really was:
“I really did not believe there are structures in the body that we are not aware of. I thought the body was mapped.”
73. Mindful People Are Less Obese
A study has found that people who live in the present are less likely to obese. Particularly in the area of belly fat.
To be clear, this isn’t something that is related to meditation. It’s more of how people live day to day.
Eric Loucks was a researcher involved with the study and says:
“This is everyday mindfulness. The vast majority of these people are not meditating.”
The study consisted of over 390 people who filled out questionnaires that gauged how mindful they were in their normal routines.
The scientists believe that being aware of feelings, emotions, and our behavior from moment to moment likely why less belly fat and mindful awareness are linked.
They also suspect it might help people to motivate themselves to be more active or exercise.
“That’s where the mindfulness may come in. Being aware of each and every moment and how that’s related to what we do and how we feel.”
People who weren’t mindful may not have been obese has children. But they were more likely to be obese as adults.
74. Lack of Sleep Impairs Ability to Recognize Emotions
Getting a good nights rest can improve mood and decision making abilities.
Lack of sleep, on the other hand, has a number of side effects. One of those being the ability to recognize facial emotions in others.
Researchers compared the brain activity of people who had been awake 24 hours with those that were normally rested.
The scans showed that participants brain regions that are linked with sensing emotions couldn’t distinguish between friendly or threatening faces. Even neutral faces were seen as threatening.
Benjamin Walker from the study says:
“The better the quality of dream sleep, the more accurate the brain and body was at differentiating between facial expressions. Dream sleep appears to reset the magnetic north of our emotional compass.
This study provides yet more proof of our essential need for sleep.”
75. Forgiveness Protects Women From Depression, But Not Men
The effects of forgiveness can be complex when it comes to different genders.
Women who forgive others, even when they haven’t’ been forgiven by others report less depressive symptoms.
This was what researchers found when going over data from a national survey of over 1,000 people that were aged 67 and older. In the survey people answered questions about health, religion, and psychological well-being.
This was completely different from men in the survey, though. For them, forgiving others and feeling unforgiven were both linked to higher levels of depression. It’s just not a guy thing, apparently.
There was one silver lining from the study, although small.
When men or women felt unforgiven, they were slightly protected from depression if they were able to forgive themselves. The scientists were surprised at how small the effect was, though.
Christine Proulx from the study tell us this:
“Self-forgiveness didn’t act as the protector against depression. It’s really about whether individuals can forgive other people and their willingness to forgive others.”
Except for men, apparently!
76. How Facebook Could Make You Depressed
It’s no secret we love social media. Facebook and Twitter have become a social phenomena in relatively short amounts of time.
Recently, Facebook has been linked to depression. It’s not that Facebook causes depression, but one of the reasons behind the association may be how we use it.
Researchers find that it could be our behavior of comparing ourselves to others that may cause depressive symptoms.
Mai-Ly Steers, a researcher from the study, gives us one reason how this could be detrimental:
“…most of our Facebook friends tend to post about the good things that occur in their lives, while leaving out the bad.
If we’re comparing ourselves to our friends’ ‘highlight reels,’ this may lead us to think their lives are better than they actually are and conversely, make us feel worse about our own lives.”
It wasn’t that people would compare themselves to someone who they thought lead a more glamorous life than them. It was simply the act of comparison.
“This research and previous research indicates the act of socially comparing oneself to others is related to long-term destructive emotions.
Any benefit gained from making social comparisons is temporary and engaging in frequent social comparison of any kind may be linked to lower well-being.”
She also believes that people in emotional turmoil may be more at risk at making social comparisons.
77. Mindfulness Can Help You Sleep
As people get older they sometimes have more trouble with sleep. So scientists are looking for ways to alleviate those problems
A recent study has found that a mindful practices practice beat out a more modern technique in relieving sleep disturbances. Showing that sometimes the old techniques are sometimes still the best.
49 individuals were split between 6 weeks of mindful awareness practices or 6 weeks of a modern sleep hygiene education intervention. All participants were older individuals with reported sleep problems.
People who took the mindful awareness not only had better sleep, but less depression and daytime sleepiness.
Although the group size was small, the experiment was a randomized clinical trial which many consider to be the gold standard in science.
The study is summed up with this:
“Pending future replication of these findings, structured mindfulness mediation training appears to have at least some clinical usefulness to remediate moderate sleep problems and sleep-related daytime impairment in older adults.”
78. Heavy Metal Can Actually Be Good For You
All those parents that told you heavy metal would rot your brain may find their fears were ill founded. At least two studies in 2015 found evidence to the contrary.
The first study found that certain extreme music like heavy metal or emo type music can have a calming effect for people who listen to it regularly.
Researchers instructed people between the ages of 18 to 34 to describe events that were upsetting. This was done to intentionally put them in an angry mood. Some people sat in silence for 10 minutes, while others were allowed to listen to extreme music of their choice.
Leah Sharman from the study reported:
“The music helped them explore the full gamut of emotion they felt, but also left them feeling more active and inspired.
Results showed levels of hostility, irritability and stress decreased after music was introduced, and the most significant change reported was the level of inspiration they felt.”
The other study looked at kids who grew up listening to heavy metal in the 80s and compared them to other adults who chose different to listen to different music.
The researchers found that many of the kids turned out pretty normal and were highly functional adults.
In some cases they even had fewer problems and more happiness than those that listened to other types of music. This was despite the fact that heavy metal listeners usually came from a more unstable childhood.
Scientists believe this was the result of having a sense of community and socializing with other teens. In other words, having a group of friends. The authors state:
“Social support is a crucial protective factor for troubled youth. Fans and musicians alike felt a kinship in the metal community, and a way to experience heightened emotions with like-minded people.”
79. How to Stop Worrying About Work When at Home
If you have a hard time detaching yourself from your work, you may want to listen up.
Some of us have problems leaving work in the office. If you’re not checking email or on your phone talking about business, you still might be thinking about it.
Research this year finds that the best way to detach yourself at work and enjoy yourself at home is to have a plan for those incomplete tasks.
Data on 103 employees with 1,127 different work goals were surveyed. They had a much more difficult time not worrying about work if they left things uncompleted.
Setting a plan in place on how to get it done the next day can alleviate this anxiety. Brandon Smit from the study says:
“This is primarily true for people that already have a difficult time forgetting about work during leisure because their job plays a central role in their life.
For them, a simple change to their work routine like task planning near the end of the workday would likely make a real difference.”
80. Get More Willpower by Finding Purpose in Life
If you’re one of those people who are constantly making bad short-term decisions, their may be a reason why. You may not know how you fit into the bigger picture of life.
A study with 503 adults found a small but consistent result that those who have purpose in life are better at controlling their impulses.
The finding is relevant to society as both self-control and a sense of purpose have separately been linked to better happiness and health outcomes.
The participants filled out surveys with personality and purpose gauging questions. They then took part in a game that measured short and long term gains over time.
Those with purpose preferred to take the bigger gains in the future. The researchers write:
“Importantly, these results persisted after accounting for dispositions in personality traits and positive (emotions), suggesting a robust and unique association between having purpose and future-oriented behavior.”
81. How To Stop Sitting All Day
Sitting in chairs for meetings or in your cubicle is part of the routine in corporate America. Even more of us go home at night and will sit in a chair or on the couch to watch our shows when the workday is done.
So the best way to get us out of our chairs?
Surprisingly, a study says targeting exercise or physical activity isn’t the best answer. Methods aimed at targeting sitting time itself were found to be more effective.
Benjamin Gardner and his colleagues assessed 38 different interventions to see which were methods were the most promising to reduce a person’s chair time.
Some of the most effective methods included using sit-stand desks at work, keeping track of total sitting time, setting individual goals for sitting, and using prompts or cues to remind people to get up and walk around.
Other useful methods included educating people about the health benefits of reduced chair time.
Ben adds this:
“However, the findings should also be of interest to anyone looking to improve their health by reducing their own sitting time in their day-to-day lives, as many of these interventions can be adopted on an individual level.”
82. Acts of Kindness Reduce Everyday Stress
There’s a quick, simple, and easy way to beat stress that you experience everyday.
It’s not physical exercise, it’s not meditation, and it’s not thinking happy thoughts. While those all work, psychologist Emily Ansell explains what was revealed in her study:
“Our research shows that when we help others we can also help ourselves.
Stressful days usually lead us to have a worse mood and poorer mental health, but our findings suggest that if we do small things for others, such as holding a door open for someone, we won’t feel as poorly on stressful days.”
Emily and her team had 77 adults record their behavior at the end of every day for 2 weeks. They were asked about stressful events, helpful behavior and their well-being.
The greater number of small acts of kindness was linked to more positive emotion. But it also showed a change in how they reacted to stress.
The more they helped others, the less likely high daily stress would affect their positive moods, and lower increase in negative emotions.
83. Thinking of Death Gives You Willpower
The thought of death doesn’t conjure up happy images.
You might think that ruminating over one’s mortality would cause a person to seize the day. To say Carpe Diem and get the most from the present.
However, researchers discovered that thinking of one’s mortality actually had them place more value on the future.
From the study, the authors write:
“….people make plans and strive for goals (including more life) that can only be met in the future. These future goals help give meaning to the present and can provide psychological protection against the threat of death.
In this sense it seems reasonable to believe that reminders of personal mortality make the future seem even more valuable — a precious commodity in short supply.”
Undergraduates were instructed to write down thoughts about their own death or about a painful dental procedure (as a control group).
It was found that those that contemplated mortality valued an immediate monetary reward less than the group that wrote about a horrible trip to the dentist.
The authors said when thinking about death:
“..may increase the value of the future, which in turn may activate relatively healthy, future-focused goal pursuits.”
84. Exposure to Nature Makes You Cooperative
Being around nature seems to have a lot of mental benefits that psychologists are just beginning to discover. It can not only restore our mental capacities of willpower, but also make us more productive and put us in a better mood.
It also seems to make us more cooperative amongst ourselves.
In a series of 3 different experiments, scientists discovered that exposure to nature through videos made people behave more cooperatively in a shared resources game.
The authors of the study write:
“Collectively, results suggest that exposure to nature may increase cooperation, and, when considering environmental problems as social dilemmas, sustainable intentions and behavior.”
You may think to yourself that people are more likely to cooperate when in a good mood. While this may be true, the scientists accounted for this. The results held even when people were shown disturbing scenes in nature, such as wolves killing an elk.
85. Sleep Affects Your Willpower
Sleep often gets overlooked as the solution to life’s problems. Mentally, it’s one of the best things you can do.
And the ability to control one’s urges and desires play a larger role than you’d believe. It’s been linked to better academic and job performance, better life satisfaction, and better health.
It can also boost attention, decisions making skills, and can help you resist impulses (like yelling at your boss).
June Pilcher and her colleagues reviewed the past literature on sleep and self-control. Here’s what she says:
“Our study explored how sleep habits and self-control are interwoven and how sleep habits and self-control may work together to affect a person’s daily functioning.”
Here’s what she says about the importance of good sleep habits:
“Poor sleep habits, which include inconsistent sleep times and not enough hours of sleep, can also lead to health problems, including weight gain, hypertension and illness, according to prior research.
Studies have also found that sleep deprivation decreases self-control but increases hostility in people, which can create problems in the workplace and at home.”
So if you’re looking for a way to improve all of these things, start by establishing healthy sleep routines. Bolstering your willpower through sleep can help more than you think. (link to article)
86. Motivating Yourself To Start Goals
Psychologists have discovered an easy and simple mind hack to help you stop procrastination and get started on big goals.
Here’s the trick. Instead of thinking about how many months or years until you reach your goal, write down how many days it’ll take.
When researchers had participants do this over seven separate studies, they found that people would report starting their goal sooner when it was stated in days instead of longer periods of time.
In psychology they call this “re-framing” or looking at something from a different perspective. So while the actual time isn’t any different, it can make the future seem closer and more urgent when framed in a smaller unit of time.
Thus the goals seemed more immediate instead of something that would happen way off in the future.
A series of studies had the participants consider goals of saving for future events like college or retirement. Researchers would ask participants when they would start saving and explain how far into the future it would be using days or years.
They found subjects would start taking action sooner when the units of time were smaller. These results held even when age, income, and education were accounted for.
Daphna Oyserman coauthored the paper and said this,
“may be useful to anyone needing to save for retirement or their children’s college, to start working on a term paper or dissertation, pretty much anyone with long-term goals or wanting to support someone who has such goals.”
87. Quitting Facebook Can Boost Your Happiness
Most of us would say we wouldn’t know how to survive one week without technology. Who doesn’t love the convenience it brings.
Some of us couldn’t even imagine life without cell phones. Kids today, never will.
But excessive use of technology can be a very real problem. And to convince you, several psychologists performed an experiment to see what it would be like if people would go a week without Facebook.
People reported improved concentration, a boost in their social life, being in a better mood, and wasting less time.
Amazing right? Here’s what people did instead. They talked to each other, socialized with friends and family, and felt more relaxed.
The scientists believe that a large part of the boost in mood comes from feelings of envy inspired by Facebook.
You see Facebook posts allow people’s lives to seem more fabulous than they really are. And when you start to compare your life with everyone’s best moments, it can get people down.
Out of the 1,095 Facebook-ers used in the study here’s what the study found:
- 5 out of 10 envy the experiences of others
- 1 out of 3 envy how happy other people seem
- 4 out of 10 envy the apparent success of others
Here’s a few more interesting statistics. People who still had access were 55 percent more likely to feel stressed. Those that took a break were 18 percent more likely to feel present in the moment.
The study was done by a Danish group called the Happiness Research Institute.
88. The Key To Achieving Your Goals
Keeping your goals is tough. In general, we usually have a pretty low success rate with our New Year’s resolutions.
So researchers took a thorough look at past results to see if there were any keys to reaching goals.
The biggest takeaway they found was this. The more frequently that you monitor or track your goal, the more likely you would succeed in reaching it. They reached this conclusion after pouring through 138 studies of close to 20,000 people.
Benjamin Harkin from the study says this about the research:
“Monitoring goal progress is a crucial process that comes into play between setting and attaining a goal, ensuring that the goals are translated into action.”
They also found that physically writing down goals physically or declaring them publicly also improved goal success.
One of the pitfalls they discovered is how people attain only on what they specifically focus on. Benjamin explains:
“…if you want to change your diet, then monitor what you are eating, but if you want to lose weight, then focus on monitoring your weight.”
So if you focus on eating better, you will probably have a better diet. But that doesn’t mean that you will necessarily lose weight.
On the flipside, if you focus on losing weight, it doesn’t mean you will eat healthier. It means that you might just eat less or get more physical activity. (link to article)
89. Experiences and Material Gifts Both Give Happiness
When holidays and big events come around, we have to start hunting for awesome gifts to give to the ones we care about.
But which is better: Something they can use which may be slightly materialistic, or something that can give them an experience.
A lot of the literature on happiness leads us to believe that experiences will outweigh material things. However, new research says that each type of gift gives happiness in its own unique way.
By tracking 81 undergraduates for 6 weeks around and after Christmas, they found that material gifts can produce happiness more often, the experiences were infrequent but more intense.
In the followup, though, when comparing which gift was more satisfying, it was the experience gifts that won out.
But that doesn’t mean you should rule out the material gift. As lead author, Aaron Weidman, says:
“The decision of whether to buy a material thing or a life experience may therefore boil down to what kind of happiness one desires.”
It may help to determine the preference of the receiver. Or you could be a gift giving maverick and get them both types of gifts.
90. An Easy Way to Stop Cravings for Snacks
Most of us get cravings for snacks from time to time. And if you have a sweet tooth, like myself, you’ll most likely go for those snacks that are sweet.
Researchers have discovered that a short walk of about 15 minutes is enough to conquer your cravings. They used 48 overweight participants who regularly ate high sugar snacks.
Many people get these cravings by being around the high calorie foods. But exercise reduced the cravings when people opened, handled, or were exposed to stressful situations that might otherwise have them consume the snacks.
This is in line with results from other research showing that a brief walk can also reduce chocolate cravings, and reduce cravings in normal weight people.
The authors sum up the research with this:
“When snacking has become habitual and poorly regulated by overweight people, the promotion of short bouts of physical activity could be valuable for reducing the urge to consume at times when the person may be particularly vulnerable, such as during stress and when snack foods are available.”
91. The Best Day to Start A Goal
As the New Year begins to approach, you may be thinking about resolutions.
Researchers have found that this is more than just a common tradition to form new goals, it’s also one of the best times to do it.
Across five studies they found that people have increased motivation to initiate goals on significant dates, which they call “temporal landmarks.”
The more personal and significant the date was to a participants, the more likely they would initiate the goal following one of these landmarks.
These dates included the start of a week, month, or year, or could be more personally relevant such as an anniversary, starting a new job, or moving to a new location.
The cause of the increased motivation, they believe, is in part to the psychological effect of a “fresh start”. A person separates oneself from past failures, and instead focuses on the future and what will be accomplished.
If you’re looking for an extra boost to get started on your goals, find an already significant day that has personal meaning.
92. Number of Friendships in College Affects Mid-Life Happiness
Having a strong social network is good for your physical and mental health.
Which is better, though. Having a lot of friends or a few close friends?
While they’re both important, a study finds that the number of friendships in your early 20s, and then the quality of your friendships when your 30 has been linked to better well-being.
This is the result of a study done over 30 that began following participants in their 20s in the 1970s. The participants were followed up in their 30s and again in their 50s.
They also found that just because you had a lot of friends in your 20s didn’t mean you’d have better quality friendships in your 30s.
It doesn’t mean that quality counts for nothing. It means that the quality of friendship has the biggest effect on happiness starting in your 30s, and having a large number of friends in your 20s boosts this even more.
Cheryl Carmichael ended by saying:
“…it is extraordinary that there appears to be a relationship between the kinds of interactions college students and young adults have and their emotional health later in life.”
93. Real Smiles Are Powerful in Relationships
When trying to make connections with strangers, it’s best to smile.
Scientists conducted two separate studies. The first found that dating couples could fairly accurately detect their partners positive emotions.
The second study found that when put in a new situation that we’re naturally drawn to people that put out a positive vibe.
The study’s author – Belinda Campos – also believes that people can pick out the difference between a fake smile (which uses only the mouth) or a genuine smile (uses the mouth and eye muscles). A genuine smile can signal affiliation and willingness to cooperate.
Belinda sums up the research saying:
“Our findings provide new evidence of the significance of positive emotions in social settings and highlight the role that positive emotions display in the development of new social connections.
People are highly attuned to the positive emotions of others and can be more attuned to others’ positive emotions than negative emotions.”
94. Being An Outsider Has a Benefit
No one likes being an outsider. And no one likes being excluded.
However, new research says that there might be a small silver lining for those that are lonely from time to time.
You can better manage manage other people’s emotions.
Scientists have proven that we’re social animals, and we strive to be socially connected. Even people who think they’re loners. And our ability to reconnect is heightened after feeling left out.
Researchers demonstrated this through a series of studies.
The studies usually started with one group thinking about a time they were socially excluded while another group was given the task of remembering the layout of their grocery store.
One study found that participants who thought about being excluded would generate more strategies to overcoming an angry or sad friend.
Yet another gave subjects the task of replying to 3 pen pals who had different fictitious and emotional life events occur. When answering back, people who thought about exclusion would attempt to manage the characters’ emotions more often. Without being instructed.
When compared with the letter of the other group, they were rated as more effective. And the participants who penned the letter were rated as more likeable.
The researchers write:
“Taken together these findings suggest that social exclusion may enhance the ability to manage others’ emotions, and that this enhanced ability may evoke greater liking from others.”
95. Rudeness in the Workplace is Contagious
Apparently people aren’t keen about rudeness at the workplace.
It could be because rudeness at work is like a virus. It can be contagious. Not to mention that it’s also unpleasant.
That’s because when people experience rude behavior, they are more likely to expect it from the next encounter. That expectation from others causes people to be rude themselves.
Trevor Foulk who was involved in the research said this about the research:
“When you experience rudeness, it makes rudeness more noticeable. You’ll see more rudeness even if it’s not there.”
This is the result of two separate studies from the University of Florida.
The first study involved graduate students who were doing negotiations with classmates. If a classmate rated someone as rude in a negotiation, it predicted that the rater would subsequently be rated rude by someone else in the next negotiation. Even up to a week later.
They found that even observing rudeness by others would make you more likely to be rude in your own interactions. Because the brain would be primed to notice bad behavior in ambiguous cues.
In another study, when participants watched a video portraying a rude interaction or a pleasant interaction in the workplace. When responding to a fictitious customer email, those people that witnessed the rude interaction were more likely to be hostile in a response email.
96. How To Get Someone to Open Up
We’ve all been in awkward situations where we’re meeting new people. New schools, new jobs, or even awkward business functions. Even meeting a member of the opposite sex at the bar.
So what’s the best way to get someone to open up and share details about themselves?
Make them laugh.
People were split into small groups of four to watch different videos. The videos showed either a bit of stand-up comedy, a clip from the TV series Planet Earth, or a clip from a golf instruction video.
When the participants watched their video, the group that had seen that comedy had more laughter than the others. To make sure there wasn’t any laughter rating bias, the scientists had independent judges confirm this.
After the video, the group was instructed to write down 5 pieces of information about themselves that they were willing to share with others. Once again, the judges were used to rate how personal the information was.
The researchers found that groups that laughed more at the videos were subsequently willing to share more personal details about themselves. So instead of telling you their favorite color, they’ll tell you about their biggest personal fear.
However, while the independent raters judged the details as more personal, the subjects themselves did not rate their own information as more personal. Suggesting that they were unaware of laughter’s influence on their tidbits of personal information.
The researchers speculated that it’s more than positive affect at work. In fact, laughter causes endorphins to release in the bloodstream. Which may be the cause of the more intimate disclosures.
Opening up is important to building strong social bonds. So when making a new connection with someone, try getting them to chuckle. Whether telling a joke or taking them to a funny movie, they’ll be more willing to share with you. Even if they don’t realize it.
As the authors note in the paper:
“Indeed, people tend to like those to whom they disclose as well as those who disclose to them, and disclosure intimacy typically increases as relationships develop.”
97. Friends Boost Resilience to Depression
Edward Hill was involved in the research that looked at friendships and if depression could spread among social networks. They found a significant and strong positive effect.
“In the context of depression, this is a very large effect size. Changing risk by a factor of two is unusual.
Our results suggest that promotion of any friendship between adolescents can reduce depression since having depressed friends does not put them at risk, but having healthy friends is both protective and curative.”
The researchers followed 2,000 students in high schools in the US.
They found that if your friends were in a good mood, then it would cut the risk of you developing depressive symptoms in half.
Related to that, if someone did happen to find themselves in a state of depression, then having friends that were in positive moods would double the chance of their recovery.
98. How To Open Up Someone’s Mind to Change
It’s not easy trying to give someone feedback on changing their behavior.
Normally, it’ll be met with defensive language or some kind of justification. Usually, they just don’t want to hear it. And in the end, nothing changes.
Scientists discovered a little trick that may help people be more receptive of such advice. Especially if it’s beneficial to them in the long run. Like health advice.
One of the best ways to avoid a person’s automatic defensive stance is to use self-affirmation. We’re not necessarily talking about the type of affirmations of Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live.
Self-affirmation in this research were a set of exercises that had people reflect on their own personal values. Values which have a strong personal meaning.
The interesting part of the research was that people were put under fMRI scanners to watch brain activity. A particular part of the brain related to processing self-relevance (“does this apply to me?”) and ascribing value to ideas. People who thought about their core values showed increase activity in these areas.
Instead of feeling threatened by the health advice, people were more likely to accept and act on health messages relating to physical activity in the study.
The affirmation technique as been shown to work in other settings like academic interventions as well.
Emily Falk, the lead author, summed it up:
“Our findings highlight that something as simple as reflecting on core values can fundamentally change the way our brains respond to the kinds of messages we encounter every day.
Over time, that makes the potential impact huge.”
99. Why Lonely People Stay Lonely
The topic of loneliness was popular in 2015. A number of papers were published exploring the answers behind why lonely people continued to stay lonely. It turns out there might be a number of factors.
One study found that lonely people, in general, feel more threatened. The found that participants who were on the outside were quicker to spot words related to social threat.
When looking at brain activity they noticed areas related to threat awareness were more active. Which, in turn, can cause a person to be more defensive. The authors of the study believe it’s a defense mechanism:
“Our evolutionary model of the effects of perceived social isolation (loneliness) on the brain as well as a growing body of behavioral research suggests that loneliness promotes short-term self-preservation, including an increased implicit vigilance for social, in contrast to nonsocial, threats.”
Another study based on annual questionnaires found that chronically lonely people respond to social situations in ways that perpetuate their situation.
If they were included in an activity, it wasn’t because they were liked. It would be some outside factor. However, if they were excluded, the believed it was because they weren’t good enough. Jane Vanhalst from the paper comments:
“These self-defeating interpretations not only make them feel worse after being socially excluded, but also less enthusiastic when being socially included.
Therefore, loneliness interventions should try to change the ways adolescents think and feel about social situations, to break the vicious cycle of chronic loneliness.”
A final study found that lonely people just might be too anxious about making social connections.
Through a series of experiments people were found to have social skills that were equal to their non-lonely counterparts.
When researchers specifically told them they were being tested on their social skills, they performed more poorly on an emotion-reading test. So when in social situations, they may just be getting too nervous and misinterpret social cues.
100. Younger Generations Are Less Religious
There is a trend among Americans that we are becoming a less religious nation than in the past.
This was what researchers found in looking at data for over 4 national survey of 11 million people that were aged 13 to 18. The surveys were conducted from 1966 to 2014.
Adolescents are reporting less time spent praying, less approval of religious organizations, and are less likely to say religion is important in their lives.
The study cites several statistics demonstrating the trend:
“Compared to the early 1970s, more than twice as many college students in the 2010s never attended services (12 percent vs. 27 percent).”
And this one on religious affiliation:
“In just the 13 years between 2000 and 2013, 87 percent more college students chose no religious affiliation.”
The authors believe the underlying cause can be linked to individualism and independent thinking. Researcher Jean Twenge comments on the driving force behind the change:
“These trends are part of a larger cultural context, a context that is often missing in polls about religion.
One context is rising individualism in U.S. culture. Individualism puts the self first, which doesn’t always fit well with the commitment to the institution and other people that religion often requires.”
101. Social Isolation as Bad as Obesity
Many studies have shown that social isolation is bad for you health.
Just how bad you might ask?
Bad enough to be compared to other health epidemics such as obesity and smoking.
Scientists made this conclusion after looking at research over the last 34 years. Overall it examines data on more than 3 million people.
The literature looked at objective measures of social isolation – how much contact is had with others. But it also examined feelings of loneliness, which can be felt even when people are around other humans.
Dr Julianne Holt-Lunstad was an author of the study. She emphasizes the findings:
“The effect of this is comparable to obesity, something that public health takes very seriously. We need to start taking our social relationships more seriously.”
She elaborates on the costs and benefits:
“Although living alone can offer conveniences and advantages for an individual, this meta-analysis indicates that physical health is not among them, particularly for adults younger than 65 years of age.”
102. Dogs Really Are Man’s Best Friend
Research from Japan finds that there man and canine may have an evolutionary bond to each other.
They discovered that when we look into the eyes of our dog a hormone called oxytocin gets released into our bloodstream. This hormone has been linked to social bonding and social behaviors.
It wasn’t just in humans, though. When dogs looked into their owners eyes, they also had increased levels of oxytocin. Also, just a rise of this hormone in a dog is enough to trigger release of the chemical in a human.
Scientists performed two experiments. In the first, volunteers (and their dogs) gave urine samples before and after interaction. The longer that they stared into each others eyes, the more oxytocin was found in their blood. However, this effect was not seen in people who had raised wolves.
The second experiment saw that dogs who were given a quick spray of oxytocin in the nostrils looked at their owners longer (only for female dogs, though). Subsequently, people’s levels of oxytocin were also raised, suggesting that dogs also have an effect on their owner.
103. The Amount of Weight Loss Needed For People to Notice
You may want to lose weight for beach season. Or maybe because you’re recently back on the market.
But have you ever wondered how much you’ll have to lose before people will begin to notice?
It’s best to hear it from the expert. Nicholas Rule was involved in the study and delivers the findings:
“Women and men of average height need to gain or lose about three and a half and four kilograms, or about eight and nine pounds, respectively, for anyone to see it in their face, but they need to lose about twice as much for anyone to find them more attractive.”
More specifically, for someone to find you more attractive they found that women needed to lose 14 pounds. For men it was 18 pounds.
The scientists digitally altered pictures to increase or decrease a person’s weight. Participants were then instructed to choose which picture they thought was heavier.
Diet & Nutrition
104. Walnuts Improve Brain Power
A study has found that eating walnuts every day can improve the speed at which your brain processes information. It can also improve memory and concentration.
The results come from analyzing data from a large and representative national nutritional survey. Their were cognitive benefits across all ethnic backgrounds, genders, and ages ranging from 20 to 90 years old.
For people over 60, walnuts were shown to boost learning and memory by 7%.
The scientists believe the antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins contained within walnuts are what drive the cognitive benefits.
Lenore Arab comments on the results:
“It is exciting to see the strength of the evidence from this analysis across the U.S. population supporting the previous results of animal studies that have shown the neuroprotective benefit from eating walnuts; and it’s a realistic amount – less than a handful per day (13 grams).”
Lots of nuts have been found to be benefit health, but if you’re looking for a brain healthy snack, walnuts could be a good option. 13 grams would be about half an ounce a day.
105. Fermented Foods Might Reduce Anxiety
Recently, scientists have begun to discover a relationship between your gut and your brain. The bacteria that are in your stomach have been found to possibly affect your behavior.
The scientists from the University of Maryland in Baltimore have found that fermented foods may make people less anxious.
Fermented foods include things like milk, cheese, yogurt, and sauerkraut.
Matthew Hilimire from the study goes into the reason why this might be:
“It is likely that the probiotics in the fermented foods are favorably changing the environment in the gut, and changes in the gut in turn influence social anxiety.”
About 700 students were administered a questionnaire asking them about their diets and exercise frequency, including their consumption of fermented foods over the last 30 days.
Those students who ate more fermented foods were found to have less anxiety. This was stronger for some more than others, though. Matthew continues:
“The main finding was that individuals who had consumed more fermented foods had reduced social anxiety but that was qualified by an interaction by neuroticism.
What that means is that that relationship was strongest amongst people that were high in neuroticism.”
106. Vegetables Make Your Brain 11 Years Younger
Research presented at the American Society for Nutrition Annual Meeting in Boston this year outlines how vegetables can aid in the fight against dementia.
Eating one to two servings of vegetables to your diet showed the people had the cognitive ability of someone that was 11 years younger in age.
This comes from studying the diets of over 950 people over the course of 2 to 10 years.
When looking at the individual nutrients in their diets, they noticed novel associations with vitamin K, lutein, folate, and beta-carotene. These types of nutrients can be found in vegetables like spinach, kale, collards and mustard greens. They can also be found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables.
The study is one of the first to notice this association with vitamin K. One of the study’s authors – Martha Clare Morris says this:
“No other studies have looked at vitamin K in relation to change in cognitive abilities over time, and only a limited number of studies have found some association with lutein.”
Just how important are vegetables then? Martha puts it into perspective:
“Since declining cognitive ability is central to Alzheimer’s disease and dementias, increasing consumption of green leafy vegetables could offer a very simple, affordable and non-invasive way of potentially protecting your brain from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.”
107. The Brain Food You’ve Never Heard Of
A potential new “brain food” called Blackcurrants has been found to boost cognitive performance, mood, reduce mental fatigue, and possibly even fight off neurodegenerative diseases.
Participants in the study drank 250mL of two juice varieties of blackcurrant and a placebo. Afterwords, they took a number of cognitive tests.
Arjan Scheepens from the study says:
“This research has shown that New Zealand-grown blackcurrants not only increase mental performance, but also reduce the activity of monoamine oxidases.”
The monoamine oxidases Arjan mentions have been associated with mood disorders and diseases like Parkinson’s.
If you live in the US, though, you may find it extremely tough to get blackcurrant. Many states actually still have laws that ban growing the berry because in the past it was a threat to the lumber industry.
Besides that, the most potent blackcurrants seem to be grown in New Zealand.
108. Vitamin D Linked to Stronger Memory
Evidence is beginning to point at the importance of vitamin D in older populations. Those low in vitamin D were found to have accelerated memory loss and decline of cognitive abilities.
An author on the study, Joshua Miller, explains:
“Independent of race or ethnicity, baseline cognitive abilities and a host of other risk factors, vitamin D insufficiency was associated with significantly faster declines in both episodic memory and executive function performance.
This work, and that of others, suggests that there is enough evidence to recommend that people in their 60s and older discuss taking a daily vitamin D supplement with their physicians.”
The study revealed an association with vitamin D deficiency, and an increase in memory loss as well as cognitive decline.
Over 400 older people were a part of the study. Of those studied, a whopping 61% had low levels of vitamin D in the beginning.
Hispanics and African-Americans were also found to be at high risk, due to their darker skin not being able to absorb the vitamin from sunshine.
The researchers believe that low vitamin D should be considered a risk factor for dementia.
109. Mediterranean Diet Reduces Risk of Depression
One of the more popular diets these days is the Mediterranean diet. It’s a diet based largely around items like fish, fruits, and vegetables.
It’s more than a fad, scientists are discovering how healthy the diet can be. Not only for your body, but for your mind.
It just so happens can also reduce your risk of depression.
They compared 3 different diets with 15,000 different participants over 10 years. The diet that was found to lower depression risk the most was the Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010, although the Mediterranean diet was also found to reduce risk.
Researchers noted both diets share similarities, including omega-3 fatty acids, vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, and moderate alcohol intake. These common items may be the contributing factors to association of lowered depression risk.
The good news is that this was found for people who followed the diet moderately. Meaning that strict adherence wasn’t needed for benefits.
One of the researchers involved, Almudena Sanchez-Villegas, comments:
“A threshold effect may exist. The noticeable difference occurs when participants start to follow a healthier diet.
Even a moderate adherence to these healthy dietary patterns was associated with an important reduction in the risk of developing depression. However, we saw no extra benefit when participants showed high or very high adherence to the diets.”
110. High Fat Diets Make Immune Cells Eat Neurons
Scientists have discovered one of the mechanisms behind why obesity and high fat diets can wreck your brain.
The study found that part of your body’s immune system that is responsible for cleaning up the trash in your body – called the microglia – gets a little out of control.
Alexis Stranahan led the study and explains it better than I can. She explains:
“Microglia eating synapses is contributing to synapse loss and cognitive impairment in obesity.
On the one hand, that is very scary, but it’s also reversible, meaning that if you go back on a low-fat diet that does not even completely wipe out the adiposity, you can completely reverse these cellular processes in the brain and maintain cognition.”
The reason behind it all is that a fatty diet causes chronic inflammation. Normally, the microglia float around cleaning things up. But with the high fat diet, they sit there and start wrecking synapses and brain connections.
This was found when scientists gave one group of mice a diet of 10% fat and another group 60% fat.
The good news is that this process was reversed in as little two weeks when they switched to a healthy diet for mice
111. Diets High in These 2 Things Reduce Cognitive Flexibility
There’s a debate between which is worse for your diet. Sugar or Fat.
In reality, it’s not one or the other. Having too much of either is bad for you. And researchers have found that a diet high in sugar or fat could reduce your ability to think flexibly.
The scientists put mice on a high fat, high sugar, or neutral diet.
Both high fat and high sugar diets reduced the ability to adapt to changing situations in the environment.
While both were damaging, it was found that sugar was a bit more destructive. It caused impairments in long and short term memory.
It appears that the changes could be driven by the bacteria in our stomachs. Kathy Magnusson from the study gives us the breakdown:
“We’ve known for a while that too much fat and sugar are not good for you. This work suggests that fat and sugar are altering your healthy bacterial systems, and that’s one of the reasons those foods aren’t good for you.
It’s not just the food that could be influencing your brain, but an interaction between the food and microbial changes.”
While not human, tests in mice have reliably predicted similar results in many experiments for our own brains.