|Wives matter more when it comes to calming down marital conflicts
||Marriage can be a battlefield. But a new study has found that, when it comes to keeping the peace, it's more important for wives -- than for husbands -- to calm down after a heated argument.
|New insights into brain neuronal networks
||A paper published proposes a novel understanding of brain architecture using a network representation of connections within the primate cortex.
|Race and Romance, Online
||A sociologist's analysis of interactions on OkCupid.com finds that race still matters in internet dating but also that "racial boundaries are more fragile than we think."
|Magnesium levels vital to brain health as population ages
||A clinical study shows that a magnesium formula prevents synapse loss and reverses memory decline in mice with Alzheimer's Disease.
|Eight Ways to Find More Meaning at Work
||Do you experience meaning at work—or just emptiness?
In the United States people spend on average 35-40 hours working every week. That’s some 80,000 hours during a career—more time than you will spend with your kids, probably.
Beyond the paycheck, what does work give you? Few questions could be more important. It is sad to walk through life and experience work as empty, dreadful, a chore—sapping energy out of your body and soul. Yet many employees do, as evidenced by one large-scale study showing that only 31 percent of employees felt engaged with their work.
Of course, different people look for different types of meanings—and, moreover, different workplaces provide different meanings. The phrase “meaning at work” refers to a person’s experience of something meaningful—something of value—that work provides. That is not the same as “meaningful work,” which refers to the task itself. Work is a social arena that provides a variety of meaningful experiences; even if an employee doesn’t find her tasks to be especially fulfilling, she might derive meaning from other aspects of her job, such as friendships with colleagues.
So, what are the sources of meaningful experiences at work? We have compiled a list of ways that work can become more meaningful, based on our reading of literature in organization behavior and psychology.
1. Contributions beyond yourself. The people at the nonprofit Kiva channel micro-loans to poor people who can use the money to get a small business going and improve their lives. Their work clearly has a greater purpose—that of helping people in need. This taps into a longing to have a meaningful life defined as making contributions beyond oneself.
The problem, however, is that most work doesn’t have such a higher purpose, either because work is basically mundane or because—let’s face it—the company doesn’t really have a social mission. Critics like Umair Haque arguethat work that involves selling yet more burgers, sugar water, fashion clothes, and the like has no broader purpose whatsoever. In this view, Coke’s “Open Happiness” is just a slogan devoid of meaning.
However, as Teresa Amabile and Steve Kramer argue, much work can be infused with some level of purpose. Companies that make real efforts in social responsibilities do this; for example, Danone, the $25-billion large and highly successful consumer goods company selling yogurt, has defined their business as providing healthy foods (which led them to sell off their biscuit business). The litmus test here is whether employees experience that their work makes positive contributions to others. Then they experience meaning at work.
2. Learning. Many MBA graduates flock to McKinsey, BCG, and other consultancies so that they can rapidly acquire valuable skills. General Electric is renowned for developing general managers; people who want to become marketers crave to learn that trade at Procter & Gamble. Work offers opportunities to learn, expand the horizon, and improve self-awareness. This kind of personal growth is meaningful.
3. Accomplishment. Work is a place to accomplish things and be recognized, which leads to greater satisfaction, confidence, and self-worth. In the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, we see Japan’s greatest sushi chef devote his life to making perfect sushi. Well, some critics like Lucy Kellaway at the Financial Times say there isn’t a real social mission here. But, from watching the movie, his quest for perfection—to make better sushi, all the time—gives his life a deep sense of meaning. And for Jiro, the work itself gives him a deep intrinsic satisfaction.
4. Status. At cocktail parties, a frequent question is, “Where do you work?” The ability to rattle of a name like “Oh, I am a doctor at Harvard Medical School” oozes status. For some, that moment is worth all the grueling nightshifts. A high-status organization confers respect, recognition, and a sense of worth on employees, and that provides meaning at work for some.
5. Power. As Paul Lawrence and Nitin Nohria wrote about in their book Driven, for those drawn to power, work provides an arena for acquiring and exercising power. You may not be one of those, but if you are, you experience work as meaningful because you have and can use power.
6. Belonging to a community. Companies like Southwest Airlines go out of their way to create a company atmosphere where people feel they belong. In a society where people increasingly are bowling alone, people crave a place where they can forge friendships and experience a sense of community. The workplace can complement or even be a substitute for other communities (family, the neighborhood, clubs etc.). Workplaces that provide a sense of community give people meaning.
7. Agency. Employees experience meaning at work when what they do actually matters for the organization—when their ideas are listened to and when they see that their contributions has an impact on how the place performs. A sense of real involvement gives people meaning.
8. Autonomy. As Dan Pink shows in his book Drive, autonomy is a great intrinsic motivator. Some people are drawn to certain kinds of work that provides a great deal of autonomy—the absence of others who tell you what to do, and the freedom to do your own work and master your task. For example, entrepreneurs frequently go into business by themselves so that they can be their own boss. This kind of freedom gives work meaning.
There are no doubt other sources as well, but the research suggests these eight seem to be especially important. Even so, the more of these is not necessarily better: Experiencing one deeply may just be enough. But if you don’t experience any of these, you may want to start by picking one to develop, in collaboration with your boss or colleagues.
Which of these are important to you? And which does your current workplace give you?
|Advice to a Student: How to Do Better Next Term
||This is a good way to begin. Improving your college experience will involve patience and work.You'll also face a set of frustrating and annoying choices; these make many students whine (you should hear my office during registration) but making such choices is an excellent way to take responsibility for your own education–and that, funnily enough, is what I can help you do.read more
|Calm candidates perform better on tests used to screen job applicants
||Applying for a job can be stressful at the best of times and even more so in today's very competitive job market. For some it is especially daunting when standardized tests -- a proven tool in the selection process -- are required. A new study shows that candidates' reactions impact their performance on the test and on the job, but don't change the ability of the tests to reliably predict job performance.
|Antidepressant drug induces a juvenile-like state in neurons of the prefrontal cortex
||Fluoxetine, a commonly prescribed anti-depressive drug, induces a juvenile-like state in the mouse prefrontal cortex. Brain development and maturation has been thought to be a one-way process until now, in which plasticity diminishes with age. The possibility that the adult brain can revert to a younger state and regain plasticity has not generally been considered until now.
|Bill de Blasio: a late-rising night owl for mayor of the city that never sleeps
||The presumptive winner of tomorrow's election admits he's 'not a morning person'. Night owls of the world, your leader has arrived!Oliver Burkeman
|Stem cells linked to cognitive gain after brain injury
||A stem cell therapy previously shown to reduce inflammation in the critical time window after traumatic brain injury also promotes lasting cognitive improvement, according to preclinical research.
|Study sheds light on criminal activity during time change
||New research indicates the time change has a big downside: an apparent increase in crimes.
|People Are More Moral in the Morning
||Faced with a moral decision? Study suggests you should make it in the morning.â†’ Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and author of PsyBlog. His latest book is
"Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick"
|Childhood maltreatment can leave scars in the brain
||Researchers say maltreatment during childhood can lead to long-term changes in brain circuits that process fear.
|Senate advances gay rights bill
||The Senate moved forward on a bill to prohibit workplace discrimination against gays and lesbians in a dramatic vote.
|Why do academics blog, really?
||Blogs are increasingly advocated as a solution for academics seeking to expand their audiences, create networks and write in more reader friendly styles. As a result, more and more academics are being urged to blog within official discourses of appropriate academic behaviour. However, what academics really use blogging for is the focus of new research.
|Transmitting stress response patterns across generations
||Children of survivors of extremely stressful life events face adjustment challenges of their own, as has been most carefully studied among the children of Nazi Death Camp survivors. This "intergenerational" transmission of stress response has been studied predominately from the psychological perspective. However, recent research points to biological contributions as well.
|Brain tumor removal through hole smaller than dime
||More than two decades ago, Ryan Vincent had open brain surgery to remove a malignant brain tumor, resulting in a lengthy hospital stay and weeks of recovery at home. Recently, neurosurgeons removed a different lesion from Vincent's brain through a tube inserted into a hole smaller than a dime and he went home the next day.
|Understanding Children's Emotions: Curiosity and Interest
||As parents, our enthusiastic responsiveness to our children's interests is the surest way to engage them in some form of meaningful dialogue or interaction, and a first principle of strengthening family relationships. read more
|Can a shot of humanities make doctors more humane? | Charlotte Blease
||A course of 'medical humanities' is supposed to unlock the empathy so often missing in care, but evidence is lackingA couple of years ago posters of a corpse started appearing on campus. The sight of a (seemingly) dead man with a tag on his toes certainly grabbed my attention.Closer scrutiny revealed that the grim poster was an advertisement for a medical amateur dramatics production. Under the guidance of a theatre director, a choreographer and a medical ethicist, the production, involving third-year medical students, was an "experimental performance piece" designed to explore the topic of "body donation" to dramatic effect.The director of the production – the fruits of a joint School of Medicine and Performing Arts venture – would later clarify the importance of the event to colleagues under the jaunty title "Doctors can dance too: using devised theatre to explore a topical issue in bioethics".Performances such as these might be medical fringe but the medical humanities are burgeoning. On both sides of the pond, medical school curricula are increasingly taking seriously the role of the creative arts, English, history, anthropology, sociology and philosophy in broadening medical students' education. And the injection of "culture" is not just being prescribed to students: qualified doctors are also encouraged to dose up on the arts and gain continuing medical accreditation as a result.Last year, I attended a medical humanities conference in the US. This time the performers were humanities PhDs; the audience comprised the same but also included doctors on away days notching up some credit. The presentations were wide-ranging, from "Leonardo da Vinci's contribution to modern orthopaedics" and "Medicine as magic in Ancient Egypt" to "The creative inspiration of medicine in the writings of Arthur Conan Doyle" and the catchily titled, "A dermabiographical approach to Zelda Fitzgerald's figure paintings".While some of the talks were insightful, stimulating, and perhaps even noteworthy, there was an underlying dogma running through the majority of the contributions. It found its proudest voice in an English professor who proclaimed that reading Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Illyich had inspired her class of interns to improve their bedside manner. With literary guidance as her beacon, she had turned these naturally (and literally) clinical young medics into sensitive human beings. Under the pressure of ER, palliative care, or even in surgery, these doctors would be better able to respond to the needs and feelings of their patients.The underlying dogma is that studying the humanities makes doctors humane. It sounds good. It might even sound intuitively right. But the "common" in common sense is often the unrefined variety. Lurking beneath the medical humanities' manifesto is a form of associative thinking – a sort of causal fallacy: it is the notion that literary or philosophical absorption, and compassion for one's fellow beings, follow a simple linear path. After a decade working in humanities faculties, my own experiences don't exactly corroborate the view.And herein lies the problem. There is no reliable evidence that studying literature improves levels of compassion among medics. This is not to say the dogma won't yet be vindicated. And it is not to say teaching or improving levels of empathy among medical students and doctors is an unimportant task. In fact the very opposite is the case: compassion and empathy form a crucial part of the doctor-patient relationship. Doctors need to be aware of the range of experiences that illnesses and personal circumstances can bring. Empathy is also crucial in creating the kind of atmosphere where patients can communicate effectively – and when patients aren't forthcoming about symptoms, doctors miss a major piece of the puzzle.The point is that nobody – least of all medical educationalists – can afford to be glib about how this facet of medical professionalism can best be found or achieved.And what about other healthcare professionals? Exponents of the literary medical humanities appear less eager to ingratiate themselves among nurses, for example. Couldn't our nurses, home helps and other healthcare workers use some of this (purported) literary elixir? An academic Google search located one publication advocating the use of (specifically) "popular literature" among nursing students. According to this reasoning, we should prescribe Danielle Steel to our nurses, while administering Dostoyevsky to the medics.Sound out of touch, condescending and (dare I say it) lacking in humanity? Perhaps the vanity of the humanities needs a dose of its own medicine.Medicine Unboxed on 23-24 November is a project that connects the public with healthcare professionals in a scientific, political and ethical conversation about medicine, illuminated through the arts. For more information on this year's event, visit our Facebook page, follow @medicineunboxed, or visit our Pinterest boardsMedical researchPsychologyMedicineHumanitiesDoctorsHealthHealth & wellbeingtheguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
|Immigration is essential (according to the science) | Dean Burnett
||The Daily Express has started an anti-immigration petition, the latest example of ongoing propaganda against immigrants. But the actual data shows that this could be a disastrous move, because immigration is essential in many ways."Just because a dog is born in a stable, doesn't make it a horse". The implication of this cliché being that being born in a country doesn't make you "of" that country; you have to be part of the culture and history or something (it's never really made clear). But the claim that being born in a stable doesn't make a dog a horse is scientifically correct. Similarly, being born in a stable doesn't make a horse a horse; genes resulting from millions of years of evolution make a horse a horse. Birth location does not alter DNA to the extent that it changes species. Ergo, people born in a country are essentially biologically identical to those who arrive there later. Humans are humans, wherever you go. But immigration is an important issue to many, in the UK and elsewhere. Many see a hard-line anti-immigration stance as a vote winner. Anti-immigrant feeling is regularly encouraged and exaggerated by the media, most recently with the Daily Express's definitely-not-racist-who-said-it-was? anti-immigration petition.Of course limitless, unmonitored immigration would be a bad thing. A countries infrastructure could collapse due to confusion alone. But it seems many in the UK want strong action taken against immigrants. Ergo, people think immigration is bad overall.Does this hold up to scientific scrutiny? Does the data support this view though? Can so many people be wrong? Yes, they can. There are many arguments against immigration, and they're generally wrong.SPACEThe most basic anti-immigration argument stems from the belief that Britain is "full". Firstly, Britain has more of a surface area than a volume, so it would be fairer to say it's "covered", but that's just semantics. The argument implies Britain doesn't have the capacity to sustain any more people, so every immigrant who arrives makes things worse for everyone by stretching our meagre resources further. However, recent data suggests that just 2.2% of Britain is "developed" in any way, and that's a generous estimate. Arguably it would be very helpful to build more, construct new homes and expand further, rather than pay increasingly high amounts for existing property. Some more room to breathe and grow might be good for everyone, immigrant or not. Of course, building thousands of new homes would require a lot of affordable labour, and traditionally there's one place to get that...ECONOMICSThe most common modern argument against immigrants is the economic burden they cause. Politicians play this card depressingly often, but it's a common claim. You'll often hear complaints about immigrants "coming over here, claiming benefits and taking our jobs", a mutually-exclusive scenario loudly complained about by the misinformed, bigots, or the extreme of both combined, Richard Littlejohn. It makes little logical sense in either case. Anyone willing to leave their country of birth, travel thousands of miles and go through the process of gaining citizenship probably has a work ethic that wouldn't settle for £50 a week. And as for taking your jobs, if you lose out on a job to a recently arrived individual from a war torn country who can't speak English, perhaps your own CV needs some serious updating? Actual data shows that immigration has a generally positive impact on a county's economy, what with immigrants doing work, paying taxes, spending their money in the country and all that. Even parts of our infrastructure on which the economy depends are owned by foreigners. Places where strong anti-immigrant policies have been enacted usually suffer economic downturns as a result. It seems like stopping immigration to improve the economy is like hacking your foot off because you've got a stone in your shoe; you've caused a lot of needless suffering, and it still hurts to walk.CULTURESome people argue that immigration is bad because it's not "British", or ruins "Britishness". It's very hard to scientifically assess something based on someone's subjective interpretation of an unspecified term, as some have noticed. Immigration has been part of British culture for millennia. If people do want to travel to other countries and exploit their resources, they probably got the idea from the British Empire. And the most iconic British hymn of all is arguably Jerusalem, a heartfelt celebration of the possibility that a middle-eastern man may have visited the country, and a fervent hope that he does so again and builds a massive home here. So yeah, immigration isn't at all British.LIFEI've heard some claim that immigration is against our way of life. I don't really know what that means, really. Saying that, life as we know it wouldn't exist without immigration. Not just due to the importance of cultural diversity; on a literal, ancient bio-molecular level. It is believed the first cells formed due to endosymbiosis, where a primitive cell incorporated other, smaller cells to the mutual benefit of both. E.g. a larger cell engulfed a smaller, different cell which eventually became mitochondria. Forget our African origins, imagine how bigots will feel when told that every human is made up of billions of examples of immigrant communities. Should cause a nose bleed, at the very least. SCAPEGOATSEven the most hard-line xenophobe can't deny one use for immigrants; they make great scapegoats. The scapegoating of vulnerable groups by the larger group or culture during times of economic hardship (e.g. the present) is a well-studied phenomenon. And it's not limited to frustrated rants either. Studies revealed that there was a correlation between cotton harvests and frequency of lynching in southern USA states in the late 19th/early 20th century. Consider this if anyone invokes "the good old days" when complaining about immigrants. When people are experiencing hardships due to factors beyond their control (e.g. the weather, disease, a corrupt economic system screwing over whole countries etc) it is inevitable that they will find something or someone to bear the brunt of their impotent frustrations. It's a darker element of human nature that needs to find someone weaker to victimise. And as has been discussed before, people have worrying tendencies to find reasons to blame victims for their own suffering. Sure, there are undoubtedly immigrants who are exploiting the system or behaving generally badly, but that's not behaviour exclusive to immigrants. Far from it. All the despicable efforts to play up to or enhance this anti-immigrant bias people are feeling are worryingly short-sighted. If we do stop all immigration and find all the problems we'd blamed on them haven't gone away but have in fact gotten worse, it's a question of who we blame next. For further examples of irrational anti-immigrant viewpoints, you may want to keep an eye on the comments below. For articles like this, they tend to be as persistent as mould on a shower curtain, albeit less pleasant and more ill-informedDean Burnett wrote this purely to wind-up the Daily Express and other immigrant-bashing organisations. He is, unfortunately, on Twitter, @garwboyPsychologyEconomicsImmigration and asylumAusterityDean Burnetttheguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds