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Filling out those employment questionnaires might reveal more than you think Your answers on psychological questionnaires, including some of the ones that some employers give their employees, might have a distinct biological signature. New research indeed demonstrates overlap between what workers feel and what their bodies actually manifest. "Our goal in this study was to see if responses on self-reported questionnaires would correspond with concentrations of the stress hormone cortisol," explains the lead researcher.
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Are Some Social Ties Better Than Others? Do we live in an age of superficial social ties, incapable of genuine human connection? Our Facebook friends may seem to do little more than bombard us with trivial status updates. Texting, chatting, and tweeting appear to have dumbed down our conversations to quick, shallow exchanges. There’s no question that the digital age has changed the way we relate to one another, sometimes to our detriment, as MIT psychologist Sherry Turkle has argued in her book Alone Together. Though many of us can count Facebook friends into the thousands, research suggests that loneliness is rampant in the United States—we have fewer close friends than we did a generation ago—and takes a severe toll on our health. But we have always built our lives across a range of social ties, from loose acquaintances to lifelong partners. Each of these types of ties, strong and weak, has the potential to help as well as harm us, and each can be enjoyed or abused. These ties are the building blocks of “social capital,” which researchers define as the tangible and intangible benefits we get from our web of contacts, coworkers, friendships, family, and more. How can we make the most of the many dimensions of our social world? Let’s look at four layers of social connection, from weakest to strongest, to explore what they’re good for, when they’re limited, and how to use them to build social capital. 1. Online contacts What are they good for? For avid social media users, especially those whose livelihoods depend on rapid information sharing or self-promotion, it may seem like a no-brainer that social media connections are valuable—but the benefits may not be clear to the rest of us. We may even feel ashamed of our online connections due to the prevailing sense that these connections are less “real” than others, and that amassing too many online contacts could make us seem narcissistic (which it actually may, according to recent research). But just as online contacts can be used selfishly in the service of enhancing our self-image, they can also be used pro-socially, as a means of giving and receiving practical advice and emotional support. Studies suggest that online communication may especially benefit less extraverted individuals by giving them opportunities to provide support to others in a non-threatening environment, an experience that can in turn increase self-esteem and reduce depression. Contrary to popular opinion, research also shows that using Facebook can help satisfy our need for connection. What are their limitations? Facebook is no cure for loneliness, and the positive feelings gained may be short-lived. Though online contacts can be great when it comes to sharing everyday joys and challenges, there are times when no sympathetic emoticons can replace the comfort of a loved one’s physical presence. Using social media effectively requires knowing its limitations, and, as with a flaky friend, not expecting more from it than it can give. Building social capital with social media. To leverage this resource, it may be helpful to seek out services that are relevant to important personal goals and interests, not just general networking sites. You could also allow yourself a certain amount of time each day to actively engage with others through these services (e.g., sending messages, responding to comment threads, offering ideas), rather than simply waiting for feedback. In short, it pays to be a giver on social media, not just a lurker or a taker. 2. Professional networks What are they good for? Professional contacts can play an integral role in helping us launch or advance our careers. You might learn that your dream employer is hiring through a post from a seemingly random LinkedIn contact, or meet your future business partner through a colleague at a conference. Researchers have referred to these kinds of ties, as well as other types of looser connections such as neighborhood acquaintances, as bridging capital. Bridging capital may involve weaker ties, but the breadth and diversity of these ties can expose us to new ideas and opportunities beyond what is available in our narrower inner circles. Research suggests that job seekers who have wide-ranging weak ties are actually more likely to be successful in their search than those who have stronger close relationships. In addition, studies show that people with a large amount of bridging capital have a greater sense of connection to the broader community, a more open-minded attitude, and a greater ability to mobilize support for a cause. What are their limitations? Professional networks are great for practical goals like finding a job, promoting a product, or striking a business deal, but, like other weak ties, they tend to be less useful when it comes to intimacy and emotional support. If we’re always in networking mode, viewing new contacts merely as potential connectors or references, we may miss out on opportunities to connect with people on a deeper level and may fail to appreciate the value of our interactions with them beyond what they can offer us professionally. Building social capital with professional networks. The same principles apply here as with social media, and the two are often interconnected. Joining organizations relevant to your interests and taking active steps to become more engaged in your professional community, like serving on a committee or organizing an event, can help you make the most of this form of social capital. It may also be helpful to think about the quality of these connections. Even if your interactions with someone are limited, you can maximize that limited time by focusing on meaningful rather than more superficial exchanges—and by offering up your own ideas and resources rather than just considering what you have to gain. People are more likely to want to go to bat for you if they feel valued by you and see the relationship as mutually beneficial. 3. Close friends What are they good for? Friendship helps us meet our needs for belonging and our need to feel known and appreciated for who we are. It also allows us to know and understand others more deeply than we can know strangers: Research suggests that our friends bring out the best in us when it comes to empathic accuracy, or the ability to know and understand another person’s thoughts and feelings. In addition, research conducted by Greater Good contributor Elizabeth Page-Gould and colleagues has shown that friendships that cross ethnic group boundaries can help reduce anxiety and potentially even improve physical health among people who tend to feel anxious in intergroup settings. What are its limitations? At times, however, friendship can be a source of jealousy and competition. According to a psychological theory called the self-evaluation maintenance model, we tend to be happy for our friend’s success, but only if the success is not in a domain that is also important to us, and only if the friend is not too close. If our friend’s success threatens our own self-esteem, we may distance ourselves from them or even try to sabotage them. Friendship can also be a liability if we base our self-worth on our friends’ approval: For individuals high in friendship-contingent self-esteem, depending too much on friends can make our self-esteem unstable and increase symptoms of depression. Building social capital with friends. How can we make the most of our friendships? One approach is to be mindful of the subtle ways that jealousy can erode friendship and to find ways to reframe friends’ potentially threatening successes in a way that highlights shared benefits (e.g., your friend might be able to help you improve and reach your own goals) and that involves taking your friends’ perspective. Friends need our support and encouragement just as much when they are up as when they are down, according to research. The more we can shift our focus from maintaining our own self-image to remembering our genuine concern for our friends’ well-being, the happier and healthier our friendships will be. 4. Significant others What are they good for? For many people, there is one special person to whom they feel closest—often a romantic partner, but sometimes a best friend or family member. Significant others are the first people we turn to when we’re suffering, and their support can benefit not only our mental health but also our physical health: Research suggests that receiving social support allows us to cope better with stress and gives our immune system a boost, helping us fight off infections more effectively. Support in times of need is one of the major benefits of what researchers call bonding capital. Bonding capital may not give us the breadth and diversity of looser bridging-focused ties, but it gives us with the closeness and intimacy that even 10,000 Twitter followers might not provide. Beyond the benefits we receive directly from our significant others in the form of support and comfort, our significant others also have the potential to introduce us to a whole new social network, the friendships and other connections that our partner has developed over the years. When we enter a partnership our networks double—our partner’s connections become ours as well, and vice versa. What are its limitations? Significant others can deepen and broaden our social worlds, but they also carry the risk of creating a sense of insularity and disconnection from other parts of our social life. Staying in and watching a movie with our significant other can seem a lot more relaxing after a long week of work than attending a social event, but if we do this week after week, our other relationships may start to erode, decreasing our overall social capital. No matter how much we love our significant others, it’s unlikely that they alone can meet all of our social needs, and expecting them to do so can be damaging to the relationship over time. In addition, the benefits of this form of social capital sometimes have costs of their own. For example, receiving support doesn’t always feel good—it can sometimes make us feel helpless, incompetent, and needy, especially when we feel like we are getting more than we can give back in return. While often a source of happiness and comfort, our closest relationships can also cause hurt and disappointment. There are many things you can do to try to keep your closest relationships strong, but there are also times when relationships fail or are lost despite our best efforts. Building social capital with significant others. Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage, a History has argued that the best way to maintain a strong, healthy marriage is to have a strong network of friends with whom we share common interests and can turn to when in need. While it might be tempting to be jealous of time your partner spends with friends, or possessive of his or her time, it’s healthier to see your partner’s friends as an asset to your relationship. They provide critical psychological support to your partner and an outlet for interests that you might not share. But your partner’s friendships are also a form of social capital for you—and it will pay to help your partner keep those networks going. Inside the relationship, it’s critical to foster the perception that support is available if needed. Since support can often become unequal, thus creating ingratitude and resentment, sometimes the most effective support is invisible—meaning that it is not experienced as support per se, but rather as a gesture of caring that is not costly or burdensome to the giver. For example, a person might choose to sacrifice work time to spend a romantic evening with their partner who has had a rough week, but this form of support will likely be better received if the person does not emphasize their sacrifice, but rather communicates a genuine desire to spend time with their partner. At the same time, however, Greater Good contributor Amie Gordon’s research shows that appreciation is a critical ingredient in healthy relationships, so it’s not always a bad thing to notice your partner’s sacrifices or to make sure that they know that you’re putting them first. How do weak ties and strong ties fit together? The sociological terms “weak ties” and “strong ties” imply that one type is better than the other, and in daily life we often disparage weaker social connections like Facebook friends. But that’s a false dichotomy: As important as close relationships are, weaker ties also have their place. Research suggests that people who have a broad range of different kinds of social roles tend to be healthier and more likely to attain professional success. Occupying varying roles across multiple domains can create a psychological safety net that protects us against perceived threats to our sense of self-worth, and in turn we are likely to suffer less stress and stress-related illness. Furthermore, with modern advances in communication and technology, our networks have the potential to extend more widely than ever across space and time, allowing us to live vicariously through our friends’ travels and helping us track down long-lost cousins. But our broad networks can sometimes be overwhelming, and we may feel like we are being spread too thin, juggling emails and Twitter exchanges in addition to keeping up with work and family relationships. It can be hard to manage expectations and avoid leaving others feeling neglected—or feeling neglected ourselves. Some may find that the best solution is to cut off a layer or two of weaker ties, going on a de-friending spree on Facebook, or closing networking accounts for good. For others, it may be enough to set clear limits and prioritize certain relationships over others when necessary, remembering that depth is just as valuable as breadth. From our closest friends to our most distant social media contacts, the strong and weak ties that make up our social capital provide the bedrock of our social and professional lives and have the potential to shape our health and happiness in dramatic ways. But it’s important to remember that social capital, unlike economic capital, is not a concrete entity that we hold in our possession, but rather a fluid and ever-shifting network of relationships that need to be nurtured continually. The true value of our social capital may lie less in what we gain from it personally and more in what it allows us to build and create in collaboration with others.
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Key breaking point involved in traumatic brain injury modeled by researchers Even the mildest form of a traumatic brain injury, better known as a concussion, can deal permanent, irreparable damage. Now, an interdisciplinary team of researchers is using mathematical modeling to better understand the mechanisms at play in this kind of injury, with an eye toward protecting the brain from its long-term consequences.
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3 Anger Management Tips You Can Use Today Anger is an emotion, not a behavior, that arises as a result of negative stimuli such as making a mistake, missing out on an opportunity, being offended, or experiencing discrimination. Anger affects most of us, from when we are children and teens to later as adults. There are many things in our everyday lives that […]
Parkinson's disease: Quickly identifying patients at risk of dementia It may now be possible to identify the first-stage Parkinson's patients who will go on to develop dementia, according to a study. Although Parkinson's disease is generally associated with motor problems such as trembling or rigidity, people with this disease actually have a ¬six times greater risk of developing dementia compared to the rest of the population.
Don't tell kids not to talk to strangers – encourage them to trust their instincts | Philippa Perry If we teach children to unlearn their talent for discrimination we are endangering themIn a recently published study in Psychological Science, experimenters found out that children as young as three can evaluate trustworthiness accurately, and as well as adults can by the time they are seven. There have also been studies showing that babies as young as six months can tell which adults are more helpful, and some one-year-olds will try to help someone who is struggling.This research that children can discriminate will not shock many parents. A baby will show a preference for a person who is familiar over someone who is a stranger, and not someone who appears awkward or fake around them. A baby who is also consistently shown empathy absorbs this and is more likely to show it in turn. If we teach our children to unlearn their talent for natural discrimination because, say, we are embarrassed by their lack of manners, we are endangering them.Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, authors of seminal child-rearing books such as How to Talk So Kids will Listen, would not be surprised at this new research. They have been talking about the accuracy of children's instincts for a while. When I was pregnant with my daughter (now 21) I turned to one of their books, Liberated Parents, Liberated Children, first published in 1974 which became important to me as I determined what my own parenting philosophy would be.In it, they show why it is important to validate a baby's and a child's feelings. They put this in capital letters (it's an American book): "WHEN FEELINGS ARE IDENTIFIED AND ACCEPTED, CHILDREN BECOME MORE IN TOUCH WITH WHAT IT IS THEY FEEL." The importance of this philosophy was consolidated for Mazlish when her daughter rushed back from the local swimming pool still in her wet costume (aged 8):"We were having such a great time in the pool with this nice teenage boy we met," she said. "He played water-tag with us. Then later he took Linda and me off to the side where the trees are. He asked me if he could lick my toes. He said it would be fun."I hardly breathed. "And then what?" I said."I didn't know what to do. Linda thought it was funny, but I didn't want him to. It made me feel ... I don't know."I said, "You mean there was something about the whole thing that didn't seem right to you even though you didn't know what it was?""Yes" she nodded, "so I ran home."It is a good example of how a child's trust in her own perceptions can help to keep her safe. What happens if we deny children this, by contradicting their impressions? Are we then dulling their capacity to accurately discriminate?Blanket injunctions to not talk to strangers are unrealistic and contradict what they see us doing, so consequently it won't be a rule they will be able to take all that seriously. Children tend to do what we do, not what we say. Sometimes how a child feels is inconvenient for us, but we must not be tempted to argue with what they feel or declare that they are silly for feeling it. If we invalidate their feelings and thus teach them to overrule them, we are endangering them.I'm not saying we shouldn't contain their feelings or comfort them, nor am I saying our actions should be dictated by what they feel, I'm arguing that we need to acknowledge them and take them seriously.It also helps children when we describe our own feelings. So, next time you've had enough of the playground, don't be tempted to say, an hour is long enough, time to do the shopping, so just five more minutes. Say instead, I'm cold and tired (if this is the case), so just five more minutes. Were we to behave manipulatively towards them, we should expect to be manipulated by them in turn. And if we deny our own feelings, we will not be doing them, or us, any favours.Parents and parentingFamilyChildrenPsychologyPhilippa Perrytheguardian.com © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
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On Refusing to Be a Victim The powerful new film "Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil le Clercq" shows us the power of will through a paralyzed ballerina. Here are the four ways she persevered.read more
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Lower IQ and poorer cardiovascular fitness in teen years increase risk of early-onset dementia Men who at the age of 18 years have poorer cardiovascular fitness and/or a lower IQ more often suffer from dementia before the age of 60. This is shown in a recent study encompassing more than one million Swedish men.
Why is it proving so hard to root out homophobia? | David Robert Grimes While attitudes are changing in many societies, prejudice against homosexuals remains as strong as ever in some quartersDespite numerous studies showing increased acceptance of homosexuality in many countries as a natural and healthy part of the sexual spectrum, a disturbing new wave of homophobia seems to be sweeping the world. In Russia, Vladimir Putin's government has reduced its gay citizens to the status of pariahs, banning them from expressing the sentiment that their relationships are on a par with that of heterosexuals. Uganda has passed an abhorrent anti-gay law. Even in the US, the archetyal first-world democracy, lawmakers in Arizona have just passed a bill allowing businesses to refuse – on religious grounds – to serve homosexuals. It was only prevented from progressing because governer Jan Brewster exercised his veto.Even relatively liberal Europe still has some hang-ups about sexual orientation. In Ireland, teachers can be dismissed on the grounds of their sexuality. Despite an upcoming referendum on same-sex marriage, state broadcaster RTE recently paid a substantial sum to members of a Catholic lobby group who have staunchly opposed equality after a guest on a show accused them of homophobia. In England, UK Independence Party councillor David Silvester made headlines in January for claiming same-sex marriage is not only contrary to scripture, it is also responsible for causing flooding.The term homophobia itself can be problematic, because it implies a pathological or irrational fear. However, psychological research suggests that discrimination against homosexuals is a form of prejudice, so the term "sexual prejudice" may be more apt.There are several reasons why sexual prejudice might persist. One is ideological: if homosexuality is viewed in a negative light by the group one identifies most strongly with, it is hardly surprising that this can manifest in individual prejudice. Professor Gregory M Herek has studied this issue in depth, and notes " ... sexual prejudice reflects influences of in-group norms that are hostile to homosexual and bisexual people ... another source of prejudice is the perception that gay people and the gay community represent values that are directly in conflict with one's personal value system."Religion is a case in point. Despite Jesus's silence on the subject, the Catholic church insists that homosexual acts are contrary to "natural law" as do many other Christian sects, many of whom label it a degenerate "lifestyle choice" . These assertions fly in the face of observations of homosexual behaviour in many other animal species and studies proving it is far from a choice in humans. Islam and Judaism tend to take an equally dim view of homosexuality, and this prejudice is not confined to the Abrahamic religions.Another major reason for the persistence of homophobia may be a defensive reaction, rooted in fears and discomfort about one's own sexuality. A 1996 study by Henry E Adams et al at the University of Georgia in the US took a group of self-identified heterosexual men and split them into two groups according to whether they openly expressed homophobic sentiments. The groups were then shown heterosexual, lesbian and gay pornography while bloodflow to the penis and erectile changes were recorded.While both homophobic and non-homophobic groups experienced increases in penis circumference when exposed to the heterosexual and lesbian pornography, only the homophobic group showed an increase in response to male homosexual porn. Furthermore, when asked to rate how arousing the material was afterwards, homophobic participants declared it had no effect, despite their penis saying otherwise.This led the authors to conclude that "Homophobia is apparently associated with homosexual arousal that the homophobic individual is either unaware of or denies."In a similar vein, a 2012 study by Netta Weinstein et al found that individuals who experienced low parental approval were sometimes motivated to conceal same-sex attraction, leading to exaggerated defence mechanisms including homophobia.This may in part explain the much publicised cases of virulently anti-gay religious ministers and politicians engaging covertly in the very behaviour they condemn from the pulpit. George Rekkers is a prime example; a Baptist minister and psychologist, he was a founding member of the Family Research Council, a Christian lobbying organisation with an aggressively anti-gay message now classified as a hate group. Rekkers himself wrote a book entitled Growing Up Straight – What Every Family Should Know About Homosexuality, which despite being torn apart by academics, was championed by conservatives. Rekkers also ran a "gay conversion" centre, until he was caught in 2010 travelling with a rent boy he'd hired for the trip.Washington state Republican representative Richard Curtis opposed gay rights bills prohibiting discrimination, but stepped down in 2007 when it was revealed he had sex with a man he met at an adult bookstore. Evangelist Pastor Ted Haggard decried homosexuality, but resigned his positions when he was confronted with the fact he'd been sleeping with his masseur for more than three years.These are but a handful of examples – dozens more could be cited. While their actions are undoubtedly hypocritical, it is hard not to feel an undercurrent of sympathy for their predicament, and an overwhelming sense that they are "with themselves at war". As Prof Richard Ryan, an author on the 2012 study, writes, " if you are feeling that kind of visceral reaction to an out-group, ask yourself, 'Why?' ... it appears that sometimes those who would oppress others have been oppressed themselves, and we can have some compassion for them too; they may be unaccepting of others because they cannot be accepting of themselves."No amount of special pleading can excuse virulent homophobia, but the truth may be that it says much more about homophobes than homosexuals.PsychologyGay rightsSexualityReligionDavid Robert Grimestheguardian.com © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
Psychopathology, Assessments of Personality, and I-O Psychology In the latest issue of Industrial and Organizational Psychology: Perspectives on Science and Practice, one of the focal articles talked about maladaptive personality at work. In the article, Nigel Guenole (2014) discussed the DSM-5′s newest changes to the personality disorder diagnosis. He presented a model of maladaptive trait, along with objections to inventories measuring maladaptive […]
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"If You Leave Me, I'll Kill Myself" Some lovers try to hang on to a relationship by threatening suicide. An account of why they do it, and what to do about it.read more