Tag Archives | Psychology

Defensive Pessimism: How Planning for the Worst can be Beneficial

"Optimism Wisdom Pessimism Future Presence Past" by HKD via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

“Optimism Wisdom Pessimism Future Presence Past” by HKD via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

Julie Norem, a psychology professor at Wellesley College, explores Defensive Pessimism in her 2002 book, The Positive Power Of Negative Thinking. In short, Defensive Pessimists expect the worst, but are proactive in planning against it. Thus they are more prepared, while reducing anxiety levels.

Olga Khazan interviews Norem at The Atlantic (Follow the link to read the entire interview):

Olga Khazan: What is defensive pessimism?

Julie Norem: It’s a strategy for dealing with anxiety and helping to manage anxiety so that it doesn’t negatively influence performance. If you feel anxious in a situation, it doesn’t really matter if it’s realistic or not, you feel how you feel. It’s hard not to feel that particular way. If you feel anxious, you need to do something about it. Usually people try to run away from whatever situation makes you anxious. But there are other ways of dealing with it.

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The Scapegoat: A Brief History of Meaning

Be it personal, political, or otherwise. Scapegoating erodes through a lack of accountability.

A modern interpretation of Azazel as a Satanic...

A modern interpretation of Azazel as a Satanic, goatlike demon, from Collin de Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal (Paris,1825). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

via Megge Hill Fitz-Randolph @ suite.io

According to Sir James Frazer’s turn of the century classic, The Golden Bough; A Study in Magic and Religion, scapegoating has existed in every culture since the earliest times. Animals such as goats, snakes, and lizards as well as human beings were used to carry the village sins away from the community.

Either through sacrifice or banishment, the chosen victim carried the guilt and blame for the entire population. The perpetrator’s story is slightly different, however.

Historically Speaking

Historically what was chosen to carry the sins could be animal, vegetable or mineral.

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Sense of Free Will Weakens When We Need to Pee or Want Sex

I'm Cold AND I Have To Pee  by Fairy Heart via Flickr.

I’m Cold AND I Have To Pee by Fairy Heart via Flickr.

via io9:

Embodied cognition theory states that our thoughts and emotions are profoundly affected by our physical bodies. A new study takes this idea further, claiming that our bodily states — particularly when they’re urgent — can even influence our metaphysical beliefs.

Unlike Cartesian mind-body dualism, embodied cognition puts forth the notion that the mind is not only connected to the body, but that the body influences the mind. The theory, though controversial, suggests that our cognition, or brain states, are strongly determined by our experiences in the physical world. Indeed, previous studies have shown that our bodily movements and configurations can influence our attitudes.

For example, we enjoy things more when we nod yes, we are happier when we smile, and we suspect that botox injections stunt our ability to feel emotions. In addition, people’s judgements of social closeness can be influenced by room temperature, and their attentional style by the clothes they wear.

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Wearing sunglasses can make people less angry on sunny days

Michelle/sunglasses by Thomas Beck via Flickr. CC BY 2.0

Michelle/sunglasses by Thomas Beck via Flickr. CC BY 2.0

via PsyBlog:

Wearing sunglasses makes people less likely to express anger on a sunny day, a recent psychology study finds.

The findings are based on the idea of embodied cognition: that our facial expressions and bodily actions, whatever their cause, feed back into how we feel.

The slightly bizarre study, published in the journal Cognition & Emotion, had researchers walking up and down a beach on a sunny day (Marzoli et al., 2013).

People were randomly approached who were either wearing sunglasses or not, and who were either walking into the sun or away from it.

They were then asked to complete a test in which they could express both anger and bitterness.

The results showed that people walking into the sun without sunglasses were more likely to express anger than people who had the sun behind them, or who were wearing sunglasses and walking into the sun.

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What If Everything We Know About Treating Depression Is Wrong?

"How to Overcome Depression" by Kevin Dooley via Flickr

“How to Overcome Depression” by Kevin Dooley via Flickr

Could it be that we’re treating the wrong part of the brain?

via AlterNet:

A new study is challenging the relationship between depression and an imbalance of serotonin levels in the brain, and brings into doubt how depression has been treated in the U.S. over the past 20 years.

Researchers at the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center and Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit have bred mice that cannot produce serotonin in their brains, which should theoretically make them always depressed. But researchers instead found that the mice showed no signs of depression, but instead acted aggressively and exhibited compulsive personality traits.

This study backs recent research that indicates that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, may not be effective in lifting people out of depression. These commonly used antidepressants, such as Prozac, Paxil, Celexa, Zoloft, and Lexapro, are taken by some 10% of the U.S.

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Extinction Burst

Other than Filmspotting, the only podcast I listen to regularly is You Are Not So Smart. Out of all of the episodes, I felt compelled to share “Extinction Burst” because it’s filled with useful information about addictions and why they’re so difficult to overcome. Whether it’s food, alcohol, smoking, or some other vice, most of us struggle with addiction to varying degrees.

Via You Are Not So Smart’s Soundcloud page:

Why do you so often fail at removing bad habits from your life?

You try to diet, to exercise, to stop smoking, to stop staying up until 2 a.m. stuck in a hamster wheel of internet diversions, and right when you seem to be doing well, right when it seems like your bad habit is dead, you lose control. It seems all too easy for one transgression, one tiny cheating bite of pizza or puff of smoke, and then it’s all over.

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The Real Secret to Detecting Lies is Not Within Body Language

Jealousy and Flirtation, 1874

Jealousy and Flirtation, 1874.

via Psyblog:

Despite all the advice about lie detection going around, study after study has found that it is very difficult to spot when someone is lying.

Previous tests involving watching videos of suspects typically find that both experts and non-experts come in at around 50/50: in other words you might as well flip a coin.

Now, though, a new study published in Human Communication Research, has found that a process of active questioning yielded almost perfect results, with 97.8% of liars successfully detected (Levine et al., 2014).

The process of lie detection has nothing to do with supposed ‘tells’ like avoiding eye-contact or sweating, and everything to do with the way the suspect is questioned.

In the series of studies, participants played a trivia game in which they were secretly offered a chance to cheat.

In one experiment 12% cheated and in another 44.9% chose to cheat.

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Cognitive Benefits of Lucid Dreaming

Sleep and His Half Brother Death. John William Waterhouse, 1874.

Sleep and His Half Brother Death. John William Waterhouse, 1874.

I’ve only had a couple lucid dreams myself.

via Psyblog:

People who realise they are in a dream while they are dreaming — a lucid dream — have better problem-solving abilities, new research finds.

This may be because the ability to step outside a dream after noticing it doesn’t make sense reflects a higher level of insight.

Around 82% of people are thought to have experienced a lucid dream in their life, while the number experiencing a lucid dream at least once a month may be as high as 37%.

Flash of insight

The study, published in the journal Dreaming, recruited participants into three groups (Bourke & Shaw, 2014):

  • Frequent lucid dreamers: those who experienced a lucid dream more than once a month.
  • Occasional lucid dreamers: those who had had a lucid dream at least once in their lives.
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“Reasons for Admission” to West Virginia’s Hospital for the Insane in the Late 1800s

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Via Dangerous Minds:

After viewing this list of what could have gotten you admitted to West Virginia’s Hospital for the Insane (Weston) aka Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum back in the late-1800s, I’ve swiftly concluded that the criteria was rather all-encompassing. Who among us is a stranger to what’s on this list?

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Could a Psychological Bias be Determining Our Political Stance?

So can desensitizing people to violence and depravity through media influence their future political choices?

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via Psyblog:

Our position on the political spectrum — right, left or centrist — could be down to a deep-seated psychological bias in the way people think about the world.

That’s according to new research published in the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences, which tested reactions to viewing negative stimuli, like people eating worms or maggot-infested wounds (Hibbing et al., 2014).

The study found that the more conservative people’s politics was, the more intense their reaction to these pictures.

The variation between people was quite striking: some people did not seem to mind the pictures that much, while others reacted strongly, with much higher levels of skin conductance, showing they were sweating more.

This finding, combined with other research from around the world, suggests our so-called ‘negativity bias’ — an automatic orientation towards negative aspects of our environments — may be at the heart of our place on the political spectrum.

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