Mind

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Why we should love our Aussie accent

<p>Earlier this year, a US contestant on TV’s The Bachelor <a href="https://www.news.com.au/entertainment/tv/reality-tv/the-bachelor/us-bachelor-contestant-send-sparks-internet-lunacy-with-fake-aussie-accent/news-story/3b03d573c31c435c4869ae00cdfa4067">faked</a> an Australian accent to stand out. It wasn’t a great accent. Yanks aren’t great at doing Australian English. But to be fair, when it comes to Americans and the Australian accent, we can, and do, draw on the words of “Australia’s nightingale” Dame Nellie Melba: “<a href="https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/1143363">sing’em muck</a>”.</p> <p>A steady media diet of Paul Hogan and Steve Irwin types has left them with some funny ideas about how we Aussies talk. Stone the crows, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shrimp_on_the_barbie">Paul</a>, you want me to throw another “what” on the barbie?</p> <p>We say it’s time we educate our Yank mates. First step, let’s stop spreading nonsense about how lazy our accents are and all these cultural cringe-tinged myths.</p> <h2>Flies, booze and linguistic turncoats: public figures and our ‘lazy’ accent</h2> <p>In the opening years of the colony, it might surprise you to know that many saw the Aussie accent as a good thing — “pure” in the words of a few observers (and purity here doesn’t mean the absence of “foul language”, but rather the lack of regional characteristics). A Tasmanian correspondent, Sam McBurney, <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07268602.2014.875454?src=recsys&amp;journalCode=cajl20">wrote</a> in the Argus in April 1886:</p> <blockquote> <p>There were no peculiarities in the colonies, but a general tendency to speak a pure English.</p> </blockquote> <p>Alas, it was also around this time that the commentary started to change — enter those fanciful tales that <a href="https://catalogue.nla.gov.au/Record/1988059">link</a> our accent to our half-open mouths, the flies, the climate, the pollen, our dental hygiene, alcohol consumption, and even our day-to-day conversations with Chinese migrants.</p> <p>Sadly, Australian public figures are often the purveyors of these furphies. In the early 20th-century, Dame Nellie Melba <a href="https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/28080863">lambasted</a> the accent, referring to our “twisted vowels” and “distortions”, and claimed the</p> <blockquote> <p>…general tendency to dawdle and slouch along … lies at the heart of the Australian accent.</p> </blockquote> <p>In his 1939 contribution to the book <a href="https://trove.nla.gov.au/work/27473790?selectedversion=NBD2536590">Some Australians Take Stock</a>, T.S. Dorsch suggested the Australian accent might arise from “a species of national sloth”. And at the end of last year, Australian New York Times columnist Julia Baird <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/15/opinion/australian-accents-the-good-place.html">joined</a> the public chorus lamenting the “laziness” of the accent.</p> <p>“Lazy” and “slovenly” have long been the go-to adjectives for haters of the Australian accent. Language researcher Janice Reeve <a href="https://books.google.com.au/books/about/Australian_English.html?id=TDTWAAAAMAAJ&amp;redir_esc=y">found</a> them to be the two most common adjectives used in letters to the ABC Weekly from 1939-1959.</p> <p>Public figures aren’t helping our image by spreading this nonsense about the Aussie accent overseas. The ideas don’t stand up to scrutiny.</p> <h2>What does it even mean to have a ‘lazy’ accent?</h2> <p>Our views of accents are arbitrary social evaluations rather than intrinsic facts, and we base them on our knowledge and experience of the people who lie behind the accents. So, when you call an accent lazy, what you’re really saying is that someone is lazy. But who? The answer is often racist, classist, sexist, and, well, lazy.</p> <p>Want proof?</p> <p>Britons <a href="https://trove.nla.gov.au/work/6092074">asked</a> to evaluate British accents rated the posh accents (those closer to the Queen’s English) as the most prestigious, and the urban accents as least prestigious. When Americans rated the same accents, the results got confusing.</p> <p>Among other things, urban dialects no longer came in at the bottom of the list, and Americans in these studies even suggested that a Glasgow English speaker was from Mexico, and a Welsh English speaker was Norwegian.</p> <p>And what about these sounds often cited as “lazy”? Baird (among others) mentions “t” becoming “d” (“impordant”) and the disappearance of “l” in the iconic “Straya”.</p> <p>The first thing to point out is that the modification and disappearance of these sounds aren’t distinctively Australian. They’re not even just an English thing but make up the potpourri of linguistic changes that have been going on for centuries — in all languages.</p> <p>Next, to be technical, the “t” isn’t becoming a “d” but rather a short, rapid touching of the tongue against the bump behind the teeth, known as a “tap”. It’s rather like an “r” sound. This change is widespread in global English, including British and American varieties. If you condemn it, you must also condemn those early English speakers who turned “pottage” into “poddash” and finally into modern English “porridge”.</p> <p>And don’t these “disappearing” sounds like the “l” get up people’s noses?</p> <p>They certainly did in the 17th century, when “l” dropped from words like “walk” and “talk”. “Negligentius” is how Wallis described the modern pronunciations “wawk” and “tawk”. He would have written “slovenly” but he chose to write his 1653 book on the <a href="https://books.google.com.au/books?id=tEEVAAAAQAAJ&amp;pg=PA74&amp;dq=wallis++Grammatica+linguae+Anglicanae+negligentius&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwj-0-zMrrTgAhXVWisKHaznDawQ6AEIOjAD#v=onepage&amp;q=negligentius&amp;f=false">grammar</a> of English in Latin because English wasn’t up to the task.</p> <p>Are such sound deletions “lazy”?</p> <p>A more honest approach to such “laziness” might see us <a href="https://theconversation.com/haitch-or-aitch-how-a-humble-letter-was-held-hostage-by-historical-haughtiness-97184">reinsert</a> the “k” in words like “knight”, “knee” and “knot” (lost sometime during the 17th-century).</p> <p>But why stop there? We might reinstate “r” throughout Australian English in “word”, “part” and “far”. But then we’d be opening ourselves up to complaints about the Americanisation of Australian English. After all, the Americans maintained the “r” in these words where the British and Australian varieties lost them in the 17th and 18th centuries.</p> <h2>Learning to love the Aussie accent</h2> <p>If you’d like to “improve” the pronunciation of others, research shows this is the wrong way to do it.</p> <p>In the first instance, it implies people aren’t aware that some accents are more valued than others in different contexts. And it downplays our dynamic ability to change our accents to suit our circumstances and goals. For instance, much gets made of Bob Hawke’s “broad” Australian accent, whereas a closer <a href="https://benjamins.com/catalog/veaw.g26">examination</a> of his accent sees him speaking “general” or even “cultivated” in formal contexts (his Boyer lectures).</p> <p>In the US, Barack Obama is also a dynamic accent shifter, but his standard English accent has been met with snide observations that he is “<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0378216609001465">well-spoken</a>” (leaving one to wonder, well, why shouldn’t he be?).</p> <p>In the second instance, openly negative attitudes toward less socially valued accents in the classroom often lead to shame, resentment, and even hostility toward language activities. The outcomes can be <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/second-dialect-acquisition/E5C875B45376713E39FA2B5C18FD2382">catastrophic</a>, with consequences well beyond poor school performance. In fact, this led the Norwegian Ministry of Education to <a href="https://trove.nla.gov.au/work/6092074">ban</a> classroom attempts to change accents in 1878.</p> <p>So, there’s no substance to the view the Australian accent is “lazy”. If you’re promoting it, then in the wise words of American “philosopher” Jeffrey Lebowski, “that’s just, like, your opinion, man”.</p> <p>And it’s an opinion that is neither helping the view of Aussies overseas nor is it helping the people it proposes to help. So let’s learn to love our Aussie accents in 2019 in all forms, posh, broad, ethnic, Aboriginal — and by this we mean love the people who use them.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/111753/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em>Written by <span>Howard Manns, Lecturer in Linguistics, Monash University and Kate Burridge, Professor of Linguistics, Monash University</span>. Republished with permission of </em><a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/oi-were-not-lazy-yarners-so-lets-kill-the-cringe-and-love-our-aussie-accent-s-111753" target="_blank"><em>The Conversation</em></a><em>.</em></p>

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Why two people see the same thing but have different memories

<p>Does it ever strike you as odd that you and a friend can experience the same event at the same time, but come away with different memories of what happened? So why is it that people can recall the same thing so differently?</p> <p>We all know memory isn’t perfect, and most memory differences are relatively trivial. But sometimes they can have serious consequences.</p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/witnesses-are-forgetting-clues-to-the-boston-bombings-quickly-12935">Imagine if you both witnessed a crime</a>. What factors lead to memory differences and whom should we trust?</p> <p>There are three important aspects to memory: encoding, storage, and retrieval.</p> <ul> <li> <p><strong>encoding</strong> is how we get information into the brain</p> </li> <li> <p><strong>storage</strong> is how we retain information over time</p> </li> <li> <p><strong>retrieval</strong> is how we get information out of the brain.</p> </li> </ul> <p>Differences in each or a combination of these aspects might help explain why memories differ from one person to another.</p> <h2>How different people encode memories</h2> <p>Memory encoding starts with perception — the organisation and interpretation of sensory information from the environment.</p> <p>The <a href="https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/salience">salience</a> of sensory information (for example, how bright a light is or loud a sound) is important – but perception does not rely on salience alone.</p> <p>Rather, perception is strongly affected by what we have experienced in the past and our expectations of what we might experience in the future. These effects are called top-down processes, and have a big impact on whether we successfully encode a memory.</p> <p>One of the most important top-down processes is attention — our ability to focus selectively on parts of the world, to the exclusion of other parts.</p> <p>While certain visual items can be <a href="https://www.cibf.edu.au/without-attention">perceived</a> or <a href="https://www.cibf.edu.au/you-can-memorise-faces-in-a-single-glance-without-trying">encoded</a> into memory with little or possibly no attention, attending to items is hugely beneficial for perception and memory.</p> <p>How different people focus their attention on an event will affect what they remember.</p> <p>For example, your preference for a particular sporting team can bias your attention and memory. <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/metacognition-and-the-mind/201406/selective-perception-and-attention-the-world-cup">A study</a> of American football found that sports fans tended to remember rough play instigated by their opponent, rather than their own side.</p> <p>Age also contributes to differences in memory, because our ability to encode the context of memories <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0028393216301178">diminishes as we get older</a>.</p> <p>Context is an important feature of memory. <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.3758/s13421-017-0692-5">Studies show</a> that if we attend to both an item and its context, we remember the item better than if we attend to the item alone.</p> <p>For example, we are more inclined to encode the location of our car keys if we focus on both the keys and how we have placed them in a room, rather than just focusing on the keys alone.</p> <h2>How different people store memories</h2> <p>Memories are first encoded into a temporary memory store called short-term memory. Short-term memories decay quickly and only have a capacity of <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11515286">three or four bits at a time</a>.</p> <p>But we can group larger bits of information into manageable chunks to fit into memory. For instance, consider the challenging letter sequence:</p> <blockquote> <p>C, I, A, A, B, C, F, B, I</p> </blockquote> <p>This can be chunked into the easily memorised:</p> <blockquote> <p>CIA, ABC, FBI</p> </blockquote> <p>Information in short-term memory is held in a highly accessible state so we can bind features together. Techniques such as verbal rehearsal (repeating words aloud or in our head) allow us to consolidate our short-term memories into long-term memories.</p> <p>Long-term memory has an enormous capacity. We can remember at least 10,000 pictures, according to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/14640747308400340">a study</a> from the 1970s.</p> <p>Memories can differ between people on the basis of how we consolidate them. Many studies have investigated how memory consolidation can be improved. <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nature04286">Sleep</a> is a well-known example.</p> <p>A <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nn.3623">study</a> found that long-term memory can also be enhanced by taking caffeine immediately after learning. The study used caffeine tablets to carefully control dosage, but this builds on growing evidence for the <a href="https://theconversation.com/three-or-four-cups-of-coffee-a-day-does-you-more-good-than-harm-our-new-study-suggests-87870">benefits of moderate coffee consumption</a>.</p> <h2>How different people retrieve memories</h2> <p>Retrieving episodic memories, our memory of events, is a complex process because we must combine objects, places and people into a single meaningful event.</p> <p>The complexity of memory retrieval is exemplified by tip-of-the-tongue states — the common and frustrating experience that we hold something in long-term memory but we cannot retrieve it right now.</p> <p>The emergence of brain imaging has meant we have identified many brain areas that are important for memory retrieval, but the full picture of how retrieval works remains mysterious.</p> <p>There are many reasons that memory retrieval can differ from one person to another. Our ability to retrieve memories can be affected by our health.</p> <p>For example, memory retrieval is impaired if we have a <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304395901004882">headache</a> or are <a href="http://www.jneurosci.org/content/25/11/2977.short">stressed</a>.</p> <p>Retrieval is also affected by the outside world; even the wording of questions can change how we recall an event. <a href="https://www.simplypsychology.org/loftus-palmer.html">A study</a> instructed people to view films of car accidents and then asked them to judge the speed the cars were moving. If people were asked how fast the cars were moving when they “crashed” or “smashed” into each other they judged the cars as moving faster than if the words “contacted” or “hit” were used.</p> <p>Memory retrieval can also be affected by the presence of other people. When groups of people work together they often experience <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9293627">collaborative inhibition</a> — a deficit in overall memory performance when compared to the same group if they work separately and their memories are pooled after each individual has recounted their version.</p> <p>Effects such as collaborative inhibition highlight why memory differences occur but also why eyewitness testimony is so problematic.</p> <p>Thankfully, the proliferation of smartphones has lead to the development of innovative apps, such as <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-we-made-iwitnessed-an-app-to-collect-evidence-94107">iWitnessed</a>, that are designed to help witnesses and victims preserve and protect their memories.</p> <p>Technology such as this and knowledge of memory encoding, storage, and retrieval can help us determine whom to trust when differences in memory occur.</p> <p><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/104327/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><em>Written by <span>Julian Matthews, Postdoctoral Research Officer – Cognitive Neurology Laboratory, Monash University</span>. Republished with permission of </em><a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/why-two-people-see-the-same-thing-but-have-different-memories-104327" target="_blank"><em>The Conversation</em></a><em>. </em><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p>

Mind

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What you think is right may actually be wrong

<p>We like to think that we reach conclusions by reviewing facts, weighing evidence and analysing arguments. But this is not how humans usually operate, particularly when decisions are important or need to be made quickly.</p> <p>What we usually do is arrive at a conclusion independently of conscious reasoning and then, and only if required, search for reasons as to why we might be right.</p> <p>The first process, drawing a conclusion from evidence or facts, is called inferring; the second process, searching for reasons as to why we might believe something to be true, is called rationalising.</p> <h2>Rationalise vs infer</h2> <p>That we rationalise more than we infer seems counter-intuitive, or at least uncomfortable, to a species that prides itself on its ability to reason, but it is borne out by the work of many researchers, including the US psychologist and <a href="http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/economic-sciences/laureates/2002/kahneman-bio.html">Nobel Laureate</a> <a href="http://www.princeton.edu/%7Ekahneman/">Daniel Kahneman</a> (most recently in his book <a href="http://books.google.com.au/books/about/Thinking_Fast_and_Slow.html?id=ZuKTvERuPG8C">Thinking Fast and Slow</a>).</p> <p>We tend to prefer conclusions that fit our existing world-view, and that don’t require us to change a pleasant and familiar narrative. We are also more inclined to accept these conclusions, intuitively leaping to them when they are presented, and to offer resistance to conclusions that require us to change or seriously examine existing beliefs.</p> <p>There are many ways in which our brains help us to do this.</p> <h2>Consider global warming</h2> <p>Is global warming too difficult to understand? Your brain makes a substitution for you: what do you think of environmentalists? It then transfers that (often emotional) impression, positive or negative, to the issue of global warming and presents a conclusion to you in sync with your existing views.</p> <p>Your brain also helps to make sense of situations in which it has minimal data to work with by creating associations between pieces of information.</p> <p>If we hear the words “refugee” and “welfare” together, we cannot help but weave a narrative that makes some sort of coherent story (what Kahneman calls <em>associative coherence</em>). The more we hear this, the more familiar and ingrained the narrative. Indeed, the process of creating a coherent narrative has been shown to be more convincing to people than facts, even when the facts behind the narrative are shown to be wrong (understood as the <a href="http://www.psychology.iastate.edu/faculty/caa/abstracts/1979-1984/80ALR.html">perseverance of social theories</a> and involved in the <a href="http://youarenotsosmart.com/2011/06/10/the-backfire-effect/">Backfire Effect</a>).</p> <p>Now, if you are a politician or a political advisor, knowing this sort of thing can give you a powerful tool. It is far more effective to create, modify or reinforce particular narratives that fit particular world-views, and then give people reasons as to why they may be true, than it is to provide evidence and ask people to come to their own conclusions.</p> <p>It is easier to help people rationalise than it is to ask them to infer. More plainly, it is easier to lay down a path for people to follow than it is to allow them to find their own. Happily for politicians, this is what our brains like doing.</p> <h2>How politicians frame issues</h2> <p>This can be done in two steps. The first is to frame an issue in a way that reinforces or modifies a particular perspective. The cognitive scientist <a href="http://georgelakoff.com">George Lakoff</a> highlighted the use of the phrase “tax relief” by the American political right in the 1990s.</p> <p>Consider how this positions any debate around taxation levels. Rather than taxes being a “community contribution” the word “relief” suggests a burden that should be lifted, an unfair load that we carry, perhaps beyond our ability to bear.</p> <p>The secret, and success, of this campaign was to get both the opposing parties and the media to use this language, hence immediately biasing any discussion.</p> <p>Interestingly, it was also an initiative of the American Republican party to <a href="http://woods.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/files/gw-language-choices.pdf">rephrase the issue</a> of “global warming” into one of “climate change”, which seemed more benign at the time.</p> <h2>Immigration becomes security</h2> <p>In recent years we have seen immigration as an issue disappear, it is now framed almost exclusively as an issue of “national security”. All parties and the media now talk about it in this language.</p> <p>Once the issue is appropriately framed, substitution and associations can be made for us. Talk of national security allows us to talk about borders, which may be porous, or even crumbling. This evokes emotional reactions that can be suitably manipulated.</p> <p>Budgets can be “in crisis” or in “emergency” conditions, suggesting the need for urgent intervention, or rescue missions. Once such positions are established, all that is needed are some reasons to believe them.</p> <p>The great thing about rationalisation is that we get to select the reasons we want – that is, those that will support our existing conclusions. Our <a href="http://www.princeton.edu/%7Eachaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Confirmation_bias.html">confirmation bias</a>, a tendency to notice more easily those reasons or examples that confirm our existing ideas, selects just those reasons that suit our purpose. The job of the politician, of course, is to provide them.</p> <p>Kahneman notes that the more familiar a statement or image, the more it is accepted. It is the reason that messages are repeated <em>ad nauseam</em>, and themes are paraphrased and recycled in every media appearance. Pretty soon, they seem like our own.</p> <h2>How to think differently</h2> <p>So what does this mean for a democracy in which citizens need to be independent thinkers and autonomous actors? Well, it shows that the onus is not just on politicians to change their behaviour (after all, one can hardly blame them for doing what works), but also on us to continually question our own positions and judgements, to test ourselves by examining our beliefs and recognising rationalisation when we engage in it.</p> <p>More than this, it means public debate, through the media in particular, needs to challenge preconceptions and resist the trend to simple assertion. We are what we are, but that doesn’t mean we can’t work better with it.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/18143/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em>Written by <span>Peter Ellerton, Lecturer in Critical Thinking, The University of Queensland</span>. Republished with permission of </em><a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/what-you-think-is-right-may-actually-be-wrong-heres-why-18143" target="_blank"><em>The Conversation</em></a><em>. </em></p>

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Why we need to stop medicalising loneliness

<p>What does loneliness sound like? I asked this question on Twitter recently. You might expect that people would say “silence”, but they didn’t. Their answers included:</p> <blockquote> <p>The wind whistling in my chimney, because I only ever hear it when I’m alone.</p> <p>The hubbub of a pub heard when the door opens to the street.</p> <p>The sound of a clicking radiator as it comes on or off.</p> <p>The terrible din of early morning birds in suburban trees.</p> </blockquote> <p>I suspect everyone has a sound associated with loneliness and personal alienation. Mine is the honk of Canadian geese, which takes me back to life as a 20-year-old student, living in halls after a break-up.</p> <p>These sounds highlight that the experience of loneliness varies from person to person – something that is not often recognised in our modern panic. We are in an “epidemic”; a mental health “crisis”. In 2018 the British government was so concerned that it created a “<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/pm-launches-governments-first-loneliness-strategy">Minister for Loneliness</a>”. Countries like Germany and Switzerland may follow suit. This language imagines that loneliness is a single, universal state – it is not. Loneliness is an <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1754073918768876">emotion cluster</a> – it can be made up of a number of feelings, such as anger, shame, sadness, jealousy and grief.</p> <p>The loneliness of a single mother on the breadline, for example, is very different to that of an elderly man <a href="https://www.nhs.uk/news/older-people/social-isolation-increases-death-risk-in-older-people/">whose peers have died</a> or a teenager who is <a href="https://www.psycom.net/mental-health-wellbeing/mental-health-wellbeing-mental-health-wellbeing-how-social-media-increases-loneliness/">connected online</a> but lacks offline friendships. And <a href="https://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/blog/rural-loneliness/">rural loneliness</a> is different to urban loneliness.</p> <p>By talking about loneliness as a virus or an epidemic, we medicalise it and seek simple, even pharmacological treatments. This year researchers announced that a “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jan/26/pill-for-loneliness-psychology-science-medicine">loneliness pill</a>” is in the works. This move is part of a broader treatment of emotions as mental health problems, with interventions focusing on symptoms not causes.</p> <p>But loneliness is physical as well as psychological. Its language and experience also changes over time.</p> <h2>Lonely as a cloud</h2> <p>Before 1800, the word loneliness was not particularly emotional: it simply connoted the state of being alone. The lexicographer Thomas Blount’s Glossographia (1656) defined loneliness as “one; an oneliness, or loneliness, a single or singleness”. Loneliness usually denoted places rather than people: a lonely castle, a lonely tree, or wandering “lonely as a cloud” in Wordsworth’s <a href="https://wordsworth.org.uk/wordsworth/daffodils-and-other-poems/wordsworths-daffodils/">poem of 1802</a>.</p> <p>In this period, “oneliness” was seldom negative. It allowed communion with God, as when Jesus “withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16). For many of the Romantics, nature served the same, quasi-religious or deistic function. Even without the presence of God, nature provided inspiration and health, themes that continue in some <a href="https://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/environmentalism-as-religion">21st-century environmentalism</a>.</p> <p>Critically, this interconnectedness between self and world (or God-in-world) was also found in medicine. There was no division of the mind and body, as exists today. Between the 2nd and the 18th centuries, medicine defined health depending on <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b008h5dz">four humours</a>: blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile. Emotions depended on the balance of those humours, which were influenced by age, gender and environment, including diet, exercise, sleep and the quality of the air. Too much solitude, like too much hare meat, could be damaging. But that was a physical as well as a mental problem.</p> <p>This holism between mental and physical health – by which one could target the body to treat the mind – was lost with the rise of 19th-century scientific medicine. The <a href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/this-mortal-coil-9780199793396">body and mind were separated</a> into different systems and specialisms: psychology and psychiatry for the mind, cardiology for the heart.</p> <p>This is why we view our emotions as situated in the brain. But in doing so, we often ignore the physical and lived experiences of emotion. This includes not only sound, but also touch, smell and taste.</p> <h2>Warm hearts</h2> <p>Studies of <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1467-9566.12663">care homes</a> suggest that lonely people get attached to material objects, even when they live with dementia and can’t verbally express loneliness. Lonely people also benefit from <a href="https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/p/pets-and-mental-health">physical interactions with pets</a>. The heartbeats of dogs have even been found to <a href="https://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/dog-and-their-owners-heart-beats-sync-when-theyre-reunited/">synchronise</a> with human owners; anxious hearts are calmed and “happy hormones” produced.</p> <p>Providing spaces for people to eat socially has, as well as music, dance and massage therapies, been found to reduce loneliness, even among people with <a href="https://www.research.va.gov/currents/0119-Mind-body-therapies-for-PTSD.cfm">PTSD</a>. Working through the senses gives physical connectedness and belonging to people starved of social contact and companionable touch.</p> <p>Terms like “warm-hearted” describe these social interactions. They come from historic ideas that connected a person’s emotions and sociability <a href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/matters-of-the-heart-9780199540976?cc=us&amp;lang=en&amp;">to their physical organs</a>. These heat-based metaphors are still used to describe emotions. And lonely people seem to crave <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/howaboutthat/8594643/Having-a-hot-bath-dispels-loneliness.html">hot baths</a> and drinks, as though this physical warmth stands in for social warmth. Being conscious of language and material culture use, then, might help us assess if others – or we – are lonely.</p> <p>Until we tend to the physical as well as the psychological causes and signs of loneliness, we are unlikely to find a “cure” for a modern epidemic. Because this separation between mind and body reflects a broader division that has emerged between the individual and society, self and world.</p> <h2>The limits of the individual</h2> <p>Many of the processes of modernity are predicated on individualism; on the conviction that we are distinct, entirely <a href="https://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674824263">separate beings</a>. At the same time as medical science parcelled up the body into different specialisms and divisions, the social and economic changes brought by <a href="https://www.routledge.com/The-Routledge-Companion-to-Modernity-Space-and-Gender/Staub/p/book/9781138746411">modernity</a> – industrialisation, urbanisation, individualism – transformed patterns of work, life and leisure, creating secular alternatives to the God-in-world idea.</p> <p>These transformations were justified by secularism. Physical and earthly bodies were redefined as material rather than spiritual: as resources that could be consumed. Narratives of evolution were adapted by <a href="https://www.history.com/topics/early-20th-century-us/social-darwinism">social Darwinists</a> who claimed that competitive individualism was not only justifiable, but inevitable. Classifications and divisions were the order of the day: between mind and body, nature and culture, self and others. Gone was the 18th-century sense of sociability in which, as Alexander Pope put it, “self love and social be the same”.</p> <p>Little wonder then, that the language of loneliness has increased in the 21st century. Privatisation, deregulation and austerity have continued the forces of liberalisation. And languages of loneliness thrive in the gaps created by the meaninglessness and powerlessness identified by <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1057/palgrave.sth.8700046">Karl Marx</a> and sociologist <a href="https://blog.oup.com/2017/10/energy-contagion-emile-durkheim/">Emile Durkheim</a> as synonymous with the post-industrial age.</p> <p>Of course loneliness is not only about material want. Billionaires are lonely too. Poverty might increase loneliness linked to social isolation, but <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/pragyaagarwaleurope/2018/07/12/loneliness-as-an-entrepreneur-heres-something-we-can-do-about-it/">wealth is no buffer</a> against the absence of meaning in the modern age. Nor is it useful in navigating the proliferation of 21st-century “communities” that exist (online and off) that lack the mutual obligation assured by earlier definitions of community as a source of “common good”.</p> <p>I am not suggesting a return to the humours, or some fictitious, pre-industrial Arcadia. But I do think that more attention needs to be paid to loneliness’s complex history. In the context of this history, knee-jerk claims of an “epidemic” are revealed to be unhelpful. Instead, we must address what “community” means in the present, and acknowledge the myriad kinds of loneliness (positive and negative) that exist under modern individualism.</p> <p>To do this we must tend to the body, for that is how we connect to the world, and each other, as sensory, physical beings.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/127056/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em>Written by <span>Fay Bound Alberti, Reader in History and UKRI Future Leaders Fellow, University of York</span>. Republished with permission of </em><a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/stop-medicalising-loneliness-history-reveals-its-society-that-needs-mending-127056" target="_blank"><em>The Conversation</em></a><em>.</em></p>

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How best to celebrate Christmas with a person with dementia

<p>Christmas can be a stressful time for hosts and guests alike, and it’s more so for carers of people living with dementia.</p> <p>It’s difficult to give general advice about how to get through the holiday season with as little fuss as possible because everyone is unique, and the various types and stages of dementia affect behaviour in different ways.</p> <p>So I’m going to tell you a story of how one couple is getting through. Hopefully, their strategies will suggest things other families can do for a better Christmas.</p> <p>Tom and Nola are not real people. Their portraits below are based on my experience working with people with dementia, and on conversations I’ve had with these people, their carers and service providers about how to cope at Christmas time.</p> <h2>Tailoring Christmas</h2> <p>Tom was diagnosed with dementia about three years ago.</p> <p>“My memory is not so good now,” he says. But Nola, his wife and carer, says that he’s still sociable and enjoys food and company.</p> <p>“Tom’s difficulty is that he can’t follow most conversations, remember people’s names and needs help finding his way around. He likes me to be around all the time because he seems to be worried about something happening, and can’t make even small decisions such as what he wants to eat from the fridge.”</p> <p>After a stressful and exhausting experience last year, Nola has decided not to host Christmas this time around.</p> <p>“This year we’re going to break with tradition and not have the extended family over for lunch,” Nola says.</p> <p>“Tom doesn’t cope well when there’s a group of more than four people, especially when the conversation is going fast and people are excited. He either talks out of turn and says something inappropriate, or wanders off, and I know he finds it frustrating not fitting in. He gets tired after an hour and asks to go home.”</p> <p>“If I’m stressed, Tom senses this and gets anxious too. So it’s better for both of us if we have quieter celebrations this year.”</p> <p>This tendency for mood to be transferred between people is known as <a href="http://www.pnas.org/content/110/24/9944">emotional contagion</a>, and it’s enhanced in people with dementia.</p> <h2>Changing expectations</h2> <p>Nola didn’t find it easy to tell her three children about their decision.</p> <p>“I felt like I was letting the family down. I think they felt a little abandoned.”</p> <p>“They tried to persuade me to have it at our place still and they would help out more, but I know it would still be difficult to cope with for Tom. The grandkids get so excited on the day and scream and run around.”</p> <p>“My daughter has agreed to have Christmas at her place. Tom and I are going to arrive late morning because this is his best time. I’m hoping that he’ll be happy to have an afternoon rest in the bedroom with some quiet music so that I can relax and not worry about him and be with the family. But if he’s not happy with that then we’ll just go home.”</p> <p>“My children are all going to individually have lunch with us that week so that Tom and I get to have some time with them in a quieter environment.”</p> <p>“Leading up to Christmas we’ve been finding Tom activities that he can do with each of us within his abilities. One daughter has been bringing her Christmas cards and getting Tom to address the envelopes and put on the stamps. This got him reminiscing about the past few Christmases.”</p> <p>“We get lots of visitors this time of year and I’ve been asking each person who comes to spend five minutes talking one-on-one with Tom. I remind them that it takes him a little bit of time to respond in conversations sometimes and to just give him this time.”</p> <p>“The grandkids are now really good at having this special ‘Pop time’ and often bring something they’ve made at school to show him. He enjoyed singing Christmas carols with Christa (a granddaughter) last week and remembers all the words.”</p> <p>“People often ask me what to give Tom, and I have been asking them to give him the gift of their company.”</p> <p>Nola often suggests activities that Tom likes and can do that he and the visitor can do together.</p> <p>“It’s also a present of time to myself when someone takes Tom out, or are keeping him occupied and content.”</p> <p>“The grandkids used to think that because Tom didn’t remember their visits that it was better to bring him presents because then he would have something to remember them by. I explained that the happy warm feelings bring chemical changes in his brain which remain even though the memory is lost.”</p> <h2>Advice and tips</h2> <p>Hopefully, this little vignette is a useful tool to start thinking about how you can tailor your Christmas celebrations to accommodate the person with dementia in your family.</p> <p>Here are some tips for carers of people living with dementia:</p> <ul> <li>Have realistic expectations of what you have the time and energy to do, and what the person with dementia has the ability to do.</li> <li>Communicate with family and friends about how things may be different this year.</li> <li>Ask for help, remember your tiredness and agitation is contagious.</li> <li>Plan somewhere quiet where the person with dementia can have some “time out” from the family celebration.</li> <li>Give family and friends activities they can do with the person with dementia.</li> <li>Get family and friends to give you respite so that you can enjoy the Christmas season too.</li> <li>Ask family and friends to spend a little one-on-one time with the person with dementia.</li> <li>Let others know that the person with dementia may value gifts of company rather than material goods.</li> </ul> <p>You can find <a href="http://www.fightdementia.org.au/common/files/NSW/20130514-NSW-Christmas-with-a-Loved-One-2013.pdf">more tips here</a>.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/21110/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em>Written by <span>Lee-Fay Low, A/Prof in Ageing and Health, University of Sydney</span>. Republished with permission of </em><a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/how-best-to-celebrate-christmas-with-a-person-with-dementia-21110" target="_blank"><em>The Conversation</em></a><em>. </em></p>

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The mind trick to make chores more enjoyable

<p><span>There are days where it just feels hard to carry out our activities and complete daily tasks as needed. When this occurs, it may be helpful to ask yourself this mindset-changing question from Tim Ferriss’ <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/benjaminphardy/2017/12/13/by-asking-himself-this-9-word-question-tim-ferriss-changed-his-life/#436b84ab5df5"><em>Tribe of Mentors</em></a>:</span></p> <p><span>“What would this look like if it were easy?”</span></p> <p><span>The productivity guru said we sometimes perceive problems as unnecessarily difficult, leading us towards <a href="https://www.lifehacker.com.au/2019/11/ask-yourself-what-would-this-task-look-like-if-it-were-fun/">paths of most resistance</a>. </span></p> <p><span>“But what happens if we frame things in terms of elegance instead of strain? Sometimes, we find incredible results with ease instead of stress,” he explained. </span></p> <p><span>“Sometimes, we “solve” the problem by completely reframing it.”</span></p> <p><span>What does easy look like? For <a href="http://money.com/money/5661915/tackle-financial-to-do-list/"><em>Money.com</em></a>’s Nina Semczuk, things are easier when they are fun. </span></p> <p><span>To achieve this, Semczuk combines “hideously boring” chores such as grocery shopping and laundry with enjoyable things such as seeing friends, bike riding and dancing.</span></p> <p><span>However, be careful of your budget when pairing these activities – for example, balancing your books while dining out at an upscale restaurant is probably not the greatest idea. </span></p> <p><span>“It takes a bit more creativity to find strategic options that hit all three criteria: fun, easy, and aligned with your goals, but once you do, you’ll not only feel excited to get those tedious tasks completed, you’ll do it knowing you stayed true to your goals,” she wrote.</span></p>

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4 things you need to do when someone sleepwalks in your house

<p><span>Ever seen a family member get out of bed and move around as though they are awake? It may be a case of sleepwalking.</span></p> <p><span>Also known as somnambulism, sleepwalking is a disorder that commonly occurs in children aged between four and 12 but may also extend to or begin in adolescence and adulthood. </span></p> <p><span>In general, people will not be able to remember what they did during their sleepwalking. Some walk, talk, eat or urinate, but others may even complete more dangerous tasks such as leaving the house or driving.</span></p> <p><span>Should this happen with someone you know, there are some things you can do.</span><span>    </span></p> <p><strong><span>1. Take them back to the bedroom</span></strong><span> </span></p> <p><span>Instead of trying to wake the person up mid-walk, consultant paediatrician Harriet Hiscock recommended taking their hand or elbow gently to guide them back to where they should be. </span></p> <p><span>“They might actually talk to you and it might not make much sense but if you don’t wake them up completely, they usually won’t remember anything the next day,” Hiscock told <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/life/what-to-do-when-someone-sleepwalks/11038626"><em>ABC</em></a>.</span></p> <p><strong><span>2. Wake them up from a distance</span></strong></p> <p><span>If the above method does not work, do not shake or hit the person – they might lash out and attack those who attempt to wake them. Instead, call their name loudly from a safe distance.</span></p> <p><strong><span>3. Install safety measures</span></strong></p> <p><span>Apart from locking windows and doors, you can also put bells to alert other people in the house of the person’s movement. Keep car keys and sharp objects in a safe place, away from easily reachable spots.</span></p> <p><strong><span>4. Talk to a doctor</span></strong></p> <p><span>A specialist can assess the causes of sleepwalking and the options to treat the problem. These may include creating healthier sleep habits, rearranging intake of sleep aid medications, and more.</span></p>

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Why loneliness is every bit as alarming as cancer

<p>The ABC’s <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-10-06/australia-talks-explained/11570332">Australia Talks</a> project aims to stimulate a conversation on a broad sweep of topics — from job security and sexual habits to national pride and personal finances.</p> <p>The project is based on the results of a representative survey of more than 50,000 Australians.</p> <p>One question the ABC’s promotional material focused on was “Are you lonely?” And when ABC chair Ita Buttrose <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-10-08/annabel-crabb-australia-talks-what-australians-worry-about/11579644">was asked</a> what she thought was the most surprising and disturbing feature of the whole exercise, she singled out the data on loneliness.</p> <p>So, does loneliness deserve this billing? Is it really as important an issue as climate change, the economy, or education? We believe it is, and importantly, results from the Australia Talks survey help explain why.</p> <h2>Loneliness kills</h2> <p>First, loneliness is a killer. <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316">An influential meta-analysis</a>, which collated and analysed the results of nearly 150 studies, underlines the impact on health of loneliness, or more specifically, lack of social integration and social support.</p> <p>It found loneliness increases the risk of death more than such things as poor diet, obesity, alcohol consumption, and lack of exercise, and that it is as harmful as heavy smoking.</p> <h2>People don’t know loneliness kills</h2> <p>Second, most people generally don’t know loneliness kills. Indeed, some of <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953617307505?via%3Dihub">our own research</a> found when people in the United Kingdom and United States were asked to rank how important they thought various factors were for health, social integration and social support were at the bottom of their lists.</p> <p>Yet, in a forthcoming paper, we found the quality of social connections is around four times more important as a predictor of retirees’ physical and mental health than the state of their finances.</p> <p>But when was the last time you saw an advert on TV telling you to get your social life in order (rather than your pension plan) before you stop working? When was the last time a health campaign or your family doctor warned you of the dangers of loneliness?</p> <p>Our ignorance about the health consequences of loneliness is a reflection of the fact that loneliness is not part of our everyday conversations around health.</p> <p>Hopefully, the Australia Talks project will change that. In the process, its findings also give us plenty of things to talk about.</p> <h2>Who’s feeling lonely?</h2> <p>The most striking finding from the Australia Talks national survey is simply how pervasive loneliness is in Australia today. Indeed, only half (54%) of participants reported “rarely” or “never” feeling lonely.</p> <p>The survey also finds loneliness is a particular challenge for certain sections of the community. Of these, four stand out.</p> <p><strong>1. Young people</strong></p> <p>Among people aged 18-24, only a third (32%) “rarely” or “never” feel lonely. More than a quarter (30%) said they felt lonely “frequently” or “always”.</p> <p>This compares sharply with the situation for older people, over two-thirds of whom (71%) “rarely” or “never” feel lonely. The fact that our <a href="https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/22876368.pdf">image of a lonely person</a> is typically someone of advanced years suggests we need to update our data (and our thinking).</p> <p><strong>2. Inner-city dwellers</strong></p> <p>The second group for whom loneliness emerges as a particular problem are people living in inner cities.</p> <p>Compared to people who live in rural areas, those in inner metropolitan areas are less likely to say that they “never” feel lonely (15% vs 20%), but much more likely to say that they “occasionally”, “frequently”, or “always” do (50% vs 42%).</p> <p>Again, this runs counter to much of the discourse around loneliness, which often focuses on the plight of those who are physical remote from others.</p> <p>But this speaks to the psychological reality of loneliness. As we note in our recent book <a href="https://www.routledge.com/The-New-Psychology-of-Health-Unlocking-the-Social-Cure/Haslam-Jetten-Cruwys-Dingle-Haslam/p/book/9781138123885">The New Psychology of Health</a>, people’s health and well-being is very much linked to the strength of their connection to, and <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1088868314523839">identification with, groups and communities</a> of various forms.</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>3. One Nation voters</strong></p> <p>Interestingly, a third group that reports disproportionately high levels of loneliness is One Nation voters. Nearly one in ten (9%) of Pauline Hanson’s followers report being lonely “always” compared to around 2% for followers of each of the other parties.</p> <p>We believe feeling disconnected from the world and its institutions often drives people to find solace in marginal political movements. This indeed, is the <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1348/014466605X48998">developmental trajectory of multiple forms of extremism</a>.</p> <p><strong>4. People on low incomes</strong></p> <p>Perhaps the most stark finding concerns the fourth predictor of loneliness: poverty. While 21% of people who earn less than A$600 a week feel lonely “frequently” or “always”, the comparable figure for people who earn more than A$3,000 a week is less than half that (10%).</p> <p>This speaks to the more general (but often neglected) fact that <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2920957/">around the world</a> poverty is one of the biggest predictors of <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(15)00150-6/fulltext">poor health</a>, especially depression and other mental illnesses.</p> <p>It also speaks to our observation that if you are fortunate enough to have a lot of money <a href="https://spssi.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/sipr.12049">when you retire</a>, then one of the key things this allows you to do is to maintain and build social connections.</p> <h2>What can we do about loneliness?</h2> <p>So, there is a lot here for us to talk about when it comes to loneliness. This discussion also needs to ask what we are going to do to address a social cancer every bit as alarming as cancer itself.</p> <p>For us, a large part of the answer lies in <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/fulltext/2019-47128-002.html">efforts to rebuild group-based social connections</a> that are eroded by the tyrannies of modern life.</p> <p>This is a world where all types of community — families, neighbourhoods, churches, political parties, trade unions and even stable work groups — are constantly under threat. So let’s get talking. <!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/126741/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><em>Written by <span>Alex Haslam, Professor of Psychology and ARC Laureate Fellow, The University of Queensland; Catherine Haslam, Professor, School of Psychology, Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences, The University of Queensland, and Tegan Cruwys, Senior research fellow and clinical psychologist, Australian National University</span>. Republished with permission of </em><a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/loneliness-is-a-social-cancer-every-bit-as-alarming-as-cancer-itself-126741" target="_blank"><em>The Conversation</em></a><em>. </em></p>

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How Julie Andrews sorts out her “demons”

<p>Julie Andrews reflected on her career and how therapy helped her become “a better mum and a better wife” in a new interview.</p> <p>Speaking to Anthony Mason on <em><a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/julie-andrews-mary-poppins-star-on-memoir-home-work-early-years-in-hollywood-going-to-therapy/">CBS This Morning</a></em>, the British actress said therapy “sorted out my demons and what I call the garbage that clutters your head and you don’t need”.</p> <p>“It helped me very much understand and put in perspective my childhood, of course. That was probably the biggest work I did,” the 84-year-old said. “And it makes for a lot of compassion and understanding, and you realise that everybody else is in the same boat.”</p> <p>Andrews, who made her Broadway debut in <em>The Boy Friend </em>ahead of her 19<sup>th</sup> birthday, revealed in her new memoir that she felt “scared” and “inadequate” during her early years in the movie industry. “Was I scared? You bet. Did I feel inadequate? All the time,” she wrote.</p> <p>She told Mason that she was “sad” and disappointed that she was passed over for a part in the film version of <em>My Fair Lady </em>in favour of Audrey Hepburn.</p> <p>“I did understand the choice,” Andrews said. “The Warner Brothers Studios … they wanted big stars and big box office names.”</p> <p>However, Andrews later beat out Hepburn to win the Golden Globe for her titular role in the 1964 flick <em>Mary Poppins</em>.</p> <p>She also shared that she was initially hesitant to take up the offer to star in <em>The Sound of Music</em>. “I was very worried when I was asked to do <em>The Sound of Music</em>,” Andrews said. “That it could be very saccharine, with the mountains, with the music, with seven children.”</p>

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What is a psychopath?

<p>Millions recently flocked to the <a href="https://www.the-numbers.com/movie/Joker-(2019)#tab=summary">cinema</a> to watch Joker, the origin story of Batman’s notorious nemesis. Many have commented that the film is a portrait of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/film/2019/sep/28/he-is-a-psychopath-has-the-2019-joker-gone-too-far">a textbook psychopath</a>. But perhaps the bigger question is how many among the audience have similar traits? Indeed, is it possible that you are a psychopath yourself?</p> <p><iframe width="440" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/t433PEQGErc?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p>To answer this question, we need to examine the diagnostic criteria for psychopathy presented in the <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/David_Cooke2/publication/232570257_Evaluating_the_Screening_Version_of_the_Hare_Psychopathy_Checklist-Revised_PCL_SV_An_Item_Response_Theory_Analysis/links/00b4951bb1ac064411000000.pdf">PCL-R</a>, which was developed by Robert Hare in the 1970s.</p> <p>Thanks to Hare, experts can use the PCL-R to assess whether an individual is exhibiting any of the criteria for psychopathy. Estimates suggest that <a href="https://www.livescience.com/16585-psychopaths-speech-language.html">about 1% of the population qualifies</a> – although the percentage is thought to be far higher among <a href="https://www.livescience.com/16585-psychopaths-speech-language.html">the prison population (25%)</a> and company <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/on-small-business/wp/2016/09/16/gene-marks-21-percent-of-ceos-are-psychopaths-only-21-percent/">chief executives (21%)</a>.</p> <p>The absolute or prototypical psychopath would produce a maximum score of 40 from Hare’s 20-item checklist, while a score of zero would indicate someone with no psychopathic tendencies. Those with a score of 30 or over should qualify for further assessment and indications of psychopathy, while many criminals score between 22 and 30. Consequently, psychopathy is perhaps best seen as a spectrum, with all of us exhibiting some traits at some point in our lives.</p> <p>Ultimately, we cannot assume that nurture – a hard upbringing, for example – will make us psychopathic. The debate between nature versus nurture has been long discussed in relation to psychopathy and there has yet to be a clear answer. But it has been suggested recently that while a genetic predisposition is essential for a person to exhibit traits of psychopathy, some environmental factors, such trauma, abuse and rejection by loved ones, could determine the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/1359178995000100">course of the disorder</a>.</p> <p>Nor should we assume that a person matching some PCL-R criteria is a psychopath. We must also keep in mind that not all psychopaths are criminals. Many are <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/0963721415580297">successful professionals</a>, so a high PCL-R score does not necessarily make us dangerous or murderous. Patrick Bateman, the blood-spattered anti-hero of Brett Easton Ellis’s infamous 1991 novel <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jan/10/american-psycho-bret-easton-ellis-irvine-welsh">American Pycho</a>, certainly is a psychopath – but not all psychopaths are Patrick Bateman.</p> <p>Nevertheless, psychopaths are clearly relatively common – so how can we spot one? After all, if a person is a psychopath, they will rarely accept it or advertise the fact.</p> <h2>The psychopath test</h2> <p>The first characteristic of a psychopath according to the PCL-R is glib and superficial charm. Of course, this can be an apparently positive characteristic. This is not a trait motivated by a genuine interest or empathy for others, however, but allows psychopaths to charm and <a href="https://www.quora.com/What-is-an-example-of-psychopathic-charm">manipulate those around them</a>, from work colleagues to <a href="https://theconversation.com/worried-you-are-dating-a-psychopath-signs-to-look-for-according-to-science-106965">romantic partners</a>. <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/communication-success/201810/7-characterisitics-the-modern-psychopath">Gaslighting</a> – whereby others are led to question their own actions and beliefs – may be a favoured strategy.</p> <p>Another key characteristic is a grandiose sense of self-worth. Of course, this profound sense of confidence or self-belief may explain why so many psychopaths appear to thrive in the cutthroat world of business. Unfortunately for their colleagues and “friends”, however, psychopaths also tend to make themselves look better by <a href="http://parenting.exposed/dating-and-relationships-after-leaving-a-psychopath/">belittling those around them</a> and <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/David_Cooke2/publication/232570257_Evaluating_the_Screening_Version_of_the_Hare_Psychopathy_Checklist-Revised_PCL_SV_An_Item_Response_Theory_Analysis/links/00b4951bb1ac064411000000.pdf">may lie pathologically</a>. Keep an eye out for <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/communication-success/201810/7-characterisitics-the-modern-psychopath">narcissists</a>.</p> <p>Other criteria on the PCL-R checklist include a lack of remorse or guilt, callousness, a parasitic lifestyle and <a href="https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/personality-types-most-likely-to-cheat-and-why-they-do-it">promiscuous sexual behaviour</a>. Psychopaths, in short, tend to be <a href="https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/psychopaths-cheat-and-take-risks-due-to-impaired-social-understanding.html">risk takers</a> and may be less likely to show, or feel, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2242355/">fear</a>.</p> <p>But they’re not always cool operators. One characteristic that is both obvious and common is poor behavioural control, which is perhaps linked to psychopaths being more likely to have a history of <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/David_Cooke2/publication/232570257_Evaluating_the_Screening_Version_of_the_Hare_Psychopathy_Checklist-Revised_PCL_SV_An_Item_Response_Theory_Analysis/links/00b4951bb1ac064411000000.pdf">juvenile delinquency</a>. Psychopaths tend to have a good eye for seeing and emulating how others behave, but they may also have outbursts of antisocial behaviour.</p> <p>Based on the above, my thought is that the Joker – or at least Arthur Fleck, the man behind the makeup – is only a borderline psychopath, with other mental health problems that would warrant further investigation first. There are certainly more real-life psychopaths that would score higher in Hare’s test.</p> <p>The key question is, based on the above, whether you might be one of them and how you intend to use these traits and skills.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/125660/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em>Written by <span>Calli Tzani-Pepelasi, Lecturer in Investigative Psychology, University of Huddersfield</span>. Republished with permission of </em><a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/what-is-a-psychopath-125660" target="_blank"><em>The Conversation</em></a><em>.</em></p>

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Feeling down: When does a mood become a disorder?

<p>We’ve all felt sad, anxious or down at one time or another, but where does the normal experience of emotion end and the clinical picture of a mood or anxiety disorder begin?</p> <p>Psychiatry has two widely used classificatory systems that provide definitions of “clinical” states of such emotions as differentiated from “normal” states – the World Health Organisation’s <a href="https://theconversation.com/two-visions-for-understanding-illness-dsm-and-the-international-classification-of-diseases-14167">International Classification of Diseases</a> and the American Psychiatric Association’s <a href="https://theconversation.com/explainer-what-is-the-dsm-14127">Diagnostic and Statistical Manual</a> (DSM).</p> <p>The boundaries are not absolute and, in recent decades, the DSM in particular has been criticised for expanding the boundary of clinical states into essentially normal domains.</p> <h2>Degrees of depression</h2> <p>Clinical depression is distinguished in such diagnostic manuals by a number of parameters including severity, duration, persistence, and recurrence.</p> <p>More severe depressive disorders are accompanied by the individual experiencing gravid depressive symptoms (such as suicidal preoccupations), by distinct impairment (such that it prevents them from going to work) and lasting more than two weeks.</p> <p>Although severity is an important thing to consider in depression, we prefer to distinguish by depression type, not just severity. Depressive disorders can be divided into two types – melancholic and non-melancholic conditions.</p> <p>The latter is a diverse group that could reflect the contribution of severe life events, such as being humiliated by a partner or a personality style that predisposes someone to depression.</p> <p>Such personality styles include being an anxious worrier, sensitive to judgement by others, being a perfectionist, having intrinsically low self-esteem, being profoundly shy or having a low sense of self-worth since childhood.</p> <p>In contrast, melancholic depression is better positioned as a disease, having rather specific clinical features, a strong genetic contribution, biological underpinnings and responding only partially to counselling or psychotherapy but well to antidepressant drugs.</p> <p>During melancholic depressive states, the individual lacks energy, experiences little pleasure in life, is physically slowed down, and tends to feel much worse in the morning.</p> <p>Extremely severe melancholic depression may even include psychosis, though importantly this is normally very responsive to appropriate medical treatment.</p> <h2>Bipolar disorders</h2> <p>The bipolar disorders are also better positioned as “diseases”. We now distinguish bipolar I (previously manic depressive illness) and bipolar II conditions – by the extremity of the highs.</p> <p>While both bipolar I and bipolar II are characterised by swings from high to low moods, in bipolar I the highs (mania) are more extreme and can include psychosis or hospitalisation.</p> <p>Highs (hypomania) in bipolar II are less extreme and will never include psychosis or a need for hospitalisation. While it’s normal for everyone to experience periods of happiness in their life, the highs experienced in bipolar are distinctly different.</p> <p>The individual loses day-to-day anxieties, feels bulletproof or invulnerable, is excessively talkative, grandiose, creative, needs little sleep without feeling tired, is indiscreet, spends money on things that subsequently cause financial difficulty and may become sexually indiscreet or possibly aggressive.</p> <h2>Anxiety disorders</h2> <p>It’s normal for everyone to feel anxious in a variety of situations. Some people might feel anxious going to a party where they don’t know many people, for instance, or giving a speech.</p> <p>The difference between normal anxiety and an anxiety disorder is when the anxiety is so persistent it stops you doing things you want to, or persists even when all logical reasons to be anxious are absent.</p> <p>Generalised anxiety disorder, for instance, involves chronic worry without a definitive cause and social phobia involves a fear of talking to or being around others.</p> <p>There are many different anxiety disorders, and it can be difficult to distinguish when normal anxiety starts to become a problem.</p> <h2>Awareness and increase</h2> <p>There are two possible reasons why there has been an increase in these conditions.</p> <p>First, more people are willing to talk about their experiences, as the stigma of these conditions is slowly decreasing. And changes to criteria in diagnostic manuals have effectively classified some “normal” states as clinical conditions.</p> <p>But being diagnosed with a mood or anxiety disorder can be a stressful experience itself. The reaction generally depends on how well the person relates to the diagnosis, whether or not the diagnosis was something anticipated and whether or not they expect a diagnosis and adequate treatment will improve their life.</p> <p>The vast majority of conditions can be treated either psychiatrically or psychologically, but finding the right treatment, while ultimately rewarding, can also at times be frustrating.</p> <p>It’s our opinion that Australia is ahead of many other western countries in having destigmatised mood disorders, and the stigma and negative consequences linked to seeking help has reduced considerably.</p> <p>Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that stigma is completely eradicated. Some employers may take advantage of knowing that an individual has a psychiatric condition. And the declaration of any condition can prevent people obtaining income protection, and even travel insurance.</p> <p>But that shouldn’t stop people from seeking help when they feel their emotional health is at risk.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/14566/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em>Written by <span>Gordon Parker, Scientia Professor, UNSW and Amelia Paterson, Research Assistant, UNSW</span>. Republished with permission of </em><a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/feeling-down-when-does-a-mood-become-a-disorder-14566" target="_blank"><em>The Conversation</em></a><em>. </em></p>

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How to break free from fear of regret

<p>How many times have you thought about starting a company, taking a year out to write that novel or leaving a loveless relationship but ended up doing nothing about it? A fear of regret – which is a powerful driver of maintaining the status quo in our lives – may be to blame.</p> <p>As research in psychology, neuroscience and behavioural science has unveiled, regret can have a huge impact on our lives. Money and relationships are arguably the two issues that consume most of our emotional and mental resources, and regret affects our behaviour in both.</p> <p>When it comes to money, a famous bias linked to regret is the “disposition effect”. This describes how investors <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/2327802?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents">hold on tight to losing assets</a>. Whether it be a mutual fund, a specific stock or even the cryptocurrency <a href="https://theconversation.com/bitcoin-turns-ten-heres-how-it-all-started-and-what-the-future-might-hold-105782">Bitcoin</a>, we are extremely reluctant to sell an asset at a loss. In fact, we rather hang on to it as it keeps dropping in value, hoping it will pick up again – regardless of whether that is likely.</p> <p>The driving force behind this behaviour is our fear of regret, which makes us stick with the status quo even if our reasoning or intuition says we shouldn’t. We are unwilling to sell the asset at a loss because, if we do, we have to admit to ourselves that we made a mistake in buying it in the first place. Holding on to it therefore allows us to avoid regret for the time being.</p> <p>A more general example is the “sunk cost bias”. This describes the fact that we often start new projects with high expectations of them doing well. While putting enormous effort into a project, we may gradually notice that it’s going nowhere. We can still opt out easily, but instead we find ourselves <a href="https://www.behavioraleconomics.com/resources/mini-encyclopedia-of-be/sunk-cost-fallacy/">hanging on to it</a> longer and longer, exerting more and more effort in spite of our gut feeling and common sense that it will bring nothing in return.</p> <p>Here, we experience regret if we terminate a project before it materialises. We therefore fall into the trap of irrationally hanging on to it in order to avoid regret temporarily. This bias is often at play in romantic relationships. For example, many people hang on to relationships that they well know are going nowhere. A botched relationship that lacks love or passion can therefore still survive due to the inconvenience of terminating it. Ending such a relationship ultimately forces us to admit a failure and experience regret. To avoid regret we instead tell ourselves that as we have come this far with the relationship we should give it another chance – despite knowing there hardly is any hope.</p> <p>The same fear also keeps us away from a new relationship. Fearing regret makes the status quo remarkably attractive, even if it doesn’t make us happy in the long term.</p> <h2>The science of regret</h2> <p>But why are we so easily manipulated? Regret is a highly important emotion that evolution equipped us with <a href="https://pure.uvt.nl/ws/portalfiles/portal/319579/zeelenberg-1999_Phil_Psych_Rationality_and_regret.pdf">to facilitate learning</a>. Without regret we can hardly learn from our mistakes. We need this painful stimulus to avoid repeating the same mistake again and again.</p> <p>But the way our brain processes regret and determines the level of pain we experience is counterintuitive: missing a bus by one minute triggers more regret than missing it by ten (regardless how long we expect to wait for the next bus). Similarly, a decision to depart from the status quo that later proves to be wrong triggers more regret than making an unwise decision to remain within the status quo. It seems that actively taking a decision to change something creates a false impression that the decision does not qualify for mitigating circumstances, making the punishment we inflict on ourselves through regret more severe.</p> <p>Recent brain imaging studies have helped <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16116457">identify the neural circuits</a> that are involved when we feel regret. They show that substantial activity is taking place in the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippocampus">hippocampus</a>, which we know is responsible for memory. They also show that experiencing regret and being scared of feeling regret involve very similar neural circuits – indicating that fearing regret is actually practically the same as experiencing regret. Clearly, this can help explain why the fear of regret can be so painful and powerful.</p> <p>Not all of us are affected identically by regret. People who suffer from high degrees of neuroticism <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5856863/">are more likely to feel regret</a> than others. This means that the tendency to feel regret is linked with the experience of anger, fear and loneliness. It is also intimately related to “loss aversion” – the tendency to focus on losses rather than gains. That makes people who are more prone to feel regret less likely to take risks.</p> <h2>Challenging the status quo</h2> <p>So how can we tackle our fear of regret to get where we want in life? A starting point is actually realising how profoundly regret affects us. If we are aware that our brain plays tricks on us it may be easier to move forward. So if you find yourself repeatedly failing to achieve your life goals, maybe ask yourself if a fear of regret is to blame.</p> <p>If it is, remind yourself that while making a change always involves a risk it is equally a risk to do nothing. In addition, unlike anxiety – which reflects on the future – regret is reflecting on the past. So, while it helps us to learn from our mistakes, it won’t allow us to correct those we have already made.</p> <p>Allowing yourself to be advised by others is, I believe, the most effective remedy. For financial decisions, you can achieve this by hiring a financial adviser. Advisers reduce our fear of regret substantially because we share our decision with others and are not alone to blamed if it turns out to be wrong.</p> <p>The very same logic applies to romantic regret. Allow yourself to get advice from a close friend or a family member when starting a new relationship or before terminating one. In addition to getting an second opinion, this will also allow you to share the misery of regret with someone else – making the departure from a negative status quo substantially easier.</p> <p>Comfortable as it may feel, letting the status quo take over can mean that we miss out on important things in life. In fact staying with the status quo can often make us <a href="https://theconversation.com/true-happiness-isnt-about-being-happy-all-the-time-88600">more miserable</a> in the long term. And for what? Just avoiding the uncomfortable, but temporary, feeling of regret.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/111115/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em>Written by <span>Eyal Winter, Andrews and Elizabeth Brunner Professor of Behavioural/Industrial Economics, Lancaster University</span>. Republished with permission of </em><a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/a-fear-of-regret-can-lock-us-into-bad-relationships-jobs-and-habits-heres-how-to-break-free-111115" target="_blank"><em>The Conversation</em></a><em>. </em></p>

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Rafael Nadal's inspiring words after stunning comeback hailed as pure gold

<p><span>Rafael Nadal is one step closer to winning his first ATP Finals title after beating Daniil Medvedev in a “one out of 1,000” match.</span></p> <p><span>The Spaniard was on the brink of defeat at 1-5 in the third set when he fought to save a match point and rallied to win over Medvedev 6-7(3) 6-3 7-6(4), furthering his bid to reach the semi-finals.</span></p> <p><span>“Sorry for Daniil. It’s a tough loss. He was playing much better than me in the third set,” Nadal said.</span></p> <p><span>“Today is one of those days that one out of 1,000 where you win, and it happened today.</span></p> <p><span>“I know from my personal experience how tough it is to close out matches, especially when you have two breaks in front and you lose the first one … I think I was a little bit better in the end. In general terms, I think I was playing much better than two days ago, so that’s a very positive thing for me.”</span></p> <p><span>When asked whether his comeback could be an example for young players that “they should fight until the last point”, Nadal rejected the idea.</span></p> <p><span>“Examples are not for one day. Examples are every day,” Nadal said.</span></p> <p><span>“In my opinion, the example is not the comeback.</span></p> <p><span>“Of course you need to be there and you need to keep fighting, but the example, in my opinion, is not break a racquet when you are 5-1 in the third or not be out of your self-control when the things are not going the right way.</span></p> <p><span>“Just staying positive, staying on court, accepting that the opponent is playing a little bit better than you and accepting that you are not that good. That’s the only example, no? Because sometimes the frustration comes when you believe and you consider yourself too good and you don’t accept the mistakes that you are doing.”</span></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr">no matter how many times Nadal says stuff like this, it will never cease to be important <a href="https://t.co/dm9oQNNxj2">pic.twitter.com/dm9oQNNxj2</a></p> — Ricky Dimon (@Dimonator) <a href="https://twitter.com/Dimonator/status/1194675099674304513?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 13, 2019</a></blockquote> <p><span>Nadal’s win means Novak Djokovic has to win the title to have any chance of overtaking the 33-year-old as the world’s number one player.</span></p> <p><span>Nadal is set to face Stefanos Tsitsipas on Friday.</span></p>

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Woman slams aged care facility over husband’s maltreatment

<p>A wife has slammed a northern Tasmanian aged care home over the poor care her husband received, saying she would report the maltreatment to the RSPCA “if he were a dog”.</p> <p>Dr Neville King, a psychologist and an Officer of the Order of Australia appointee who was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease in 2011, moved into Glenara Lakes home in Launceston in July last year.</p> <p>The professor’s wife Judith King told a hearing of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety she brought her husband to a specialist after noticing on a visit that he was anxious and disorientated.</p> <p>“[The specialist] identified acute delirium due to acute dehydration,” she said.</p> <p>“I was stunned that that could happen.”</p> <p>She said she had to repeatedly ask staff to <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-11-12/aged-care-royal-commission-hearing-neville-king-treatment/11690768">hydrate her husband properly</a>.</p> <p>“The excuse that they are busy and they are allowing someone to get acutely delirious – it’s negligence in the extreme and it's a form of passive abuse,” she said.</p> <p>“He hasn’t been beaten but he has been nearly destroyed through acute dehydration.</p> <p>“If he were a dog I’d report it to the RSPCA and he’d be removed.</p> <p>“I’ve been very sick, I don’t know if I will outlive my husband. We’re a little family of two. Neville won’t have an advocate if I’m gone, and I’m so disappointed that people in aged care are being treated in this manner.”</p> <p>She said the facility staff intimidated her when she <a href="https://www.theadvocate.com.au/story/6488234/wife-fearful-about-husbands-future-at-glenara-lakes-aged-care-facility/">attempted to make complaints</a>.</p> <p>“Each time they wanted to bring in the area manager, and a couple of them are, with respect, dragons. They were brought in to intimidate and I just sat there and thought ‘this is wrong’,” she said.</p> <p>During his stay at Glenara Lakes, Dr King also missed medications and showers and lost thousands of dollars in broken and stolen property.</p> <p>Former facility manager Helen Marshall said she quit her job in October 2018 after 10 months because she was worried about the residents’ care and safety after cutting staff hours.</p> <p>“I pride myself on not managing a facility that will compromise resident care and I couldn’t stay,” Marshall said.</p> <p>“I actually said if I have to cut one more hour I will go, and go I did.”</p> <p>The royal commission heard that Glenara Lakes had just one nurse for 16 dementia patients overnight.</p> <p>Youngtown’s Glenara Lakes failed audits by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission last year along with other Southern Cross Care’s home Yaraandoo Hostel.</p> <p>Southern Cross Care chief executive Richard Sadek said the provider had areas to improve.</p> <p>“I would like to apologise to those residents and their relatives who have experienced the circumstances that have been portrayed here at … the commission,” Sadek said.</p> <p>“I apologise and I say I’m sorry for them to endure the tension and the anxiety that they have.”</p>

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What happens to the kids when parents play favourites?

<p>Many siblings, when they get together as adults, joke about which child was loved the most. But is it really a joke or is there an edge of truth that still rankles us?</p> <p>In one study, researchers asked adults whether their mom played favourites when they were kids. Close to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2009.00650.x">85 per cent of respondents</a> perceived that she did.</p> <p>But surely once we move out of the nest, our annoyance regarding sibling favouritism subsides? No so. Upset from perceived favouritism appears to be long-lasting.</p> <p>It is likely that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8721.2008.00601.x">we will fret long into adulthood</a> over why a particular sibling got a better deal than we did.</p> <h2>Is sibling favouritism real, or perceived?</h2> <p>It turns out parents do behave <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0026321">differently with their children</a> and, of course, children have their different thresholds for noticing these differences.</p> <p>Researchers have studied favouritism both by observing children as they interact with their parents and by asking children and their parents to report on their interactions. How often do the parent and child laugh or play together? How often do they fight or argue?</p> <p>These ratings are then compared across the different siblings to determine if one child receives more positive or negative attention than the other.</p> <p>One of the reassuring findings from these studies is that when the differences in how siblings are treated by parents are small, it has little to no consequence.</p> <p>It is only when the <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2011-27537-001">differences are large</a> that we see links to children’s health and relationships.</p> <h2>Parental stress plays a role</h2> <p>Research on all different kinds of relationships shows us that a big part of how we get along with others is about the <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0000100-000">fit of personalities</a>. We find one person easier or more interesting than another. The same holds for parents and children.</p> <p>Although most parents love and nurture all their children, they will inevitably find that they are more in tune with one child than another. One child is perhaps a bit more social; another is more ready to anger, a third finds learning easier.</p> <p>These differences in how parents treat siblings have a <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1088868313498308">basis in children’s genes</a>. Parents treat identical twins, who share 100 per cent of their DNA, more similarly than they treat non-identical twins, who share about 50 per cent of their genes.</p> <p>The more the personalities of siblings differ, the more their parents treat them differently.</p> <p>Another driver of parenting is, of course, a child’s age. Parents interact with and discipline their children based on changes in developmental capabilities as they grow. Age and personality explain some of the differences in the parental treatment that children perceive.</p> <p>But while age and personality play a role in why one child gets more from a parent than another, over and above this are issues of parental stress. When parents experience <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0012-1649.39.1.99">financial strain, mental health problems or partner conflict</a>, differential parenting or sibling favouritism becomes more marked.</p> <h2>Impacts on physical and mental well-being</h2> <p>Unfortunately, perceived favouritism can create a divide between siblings. It is associated with siblings feeling less close to one another, both in childhood and adulthood.</p> <p>This finding has been established for both <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2009.00650.x">perceived</a>, as well as <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7610.2011.02484.x">observed</a> favouritism.</p> <p>Popular wisdom suggests that the favoured child receives benefits from their special treatment. While this may be the case when favouritism is slight, research suggests that none of the siblings benefit when it is more marked. That is, when favouritism is considerable, it is associated with all siblings showing less <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.01.017">physical and mental well-being</a>.</p> <p>Reasons for this are not currently clear. It is possible that children are activated by injustice. Or perhaps even when they are favoured they fear falling into the realm of being disfavoured.</p> <p>But most reassuring for parents are the findings that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.1997.tb01929.x">parental explanations for why they are treating siblings differently really change the experience</a> for children. Explanations that focus on their different personalities, ages or needs are associated with lower levels of distress for children.</p> <h2>Five tips for fairer parenting</h2> <ol> <li> <p>Be aware. The first step is to be aware that it happens, and to seek out help or support from partners, family members, friends or health professionals — to try to understand why it happens. As a reminder, playing favourites is more likely to occur when your stress levels are high.</p> </li> <li> <p>Listen. When your child complains or you see fights between siblings in which they mention one getting more than another, try not to discount it. Be receptive to the child’s feelings and think about why they might be feeling this way.</p> </li> <li> <p>Provide an explanation. Sometimes, children do need to be treated differently, like when one child is sick, hurt or has special needs. When this happens, explain it to avoid any misunderstanding.</p> </li> <li> <p>Avoid comparing children. While it may be a natural tendency to say “why can’t you be more like your sister?” this sets up an unfair comparison. Try to focus on what each child does well, without pitting them against one another.</p> </li> <li> <p>Carve out individual time for each child. As much as possible, try to find 10 minutes each day to spend one-on-one with each child so that each has your full attention. Do any activity that they love to do with you.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/110019/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> </li> </ol> <p><em>Written by <span>Sheri Madigan, Assistant Professor, Canada Research Chair in Determinants of Child Development, Owerko Centre at the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, University of Calgary and Jennifer Jenkins, Atkinson Chair of Early Child Development and Education and Director of the Atkinson Centre, University of Toronto</span>. Republished with permission of </em><a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/when-parents-play-favourites-what-happens-to-the-kids-110019" target="_blank"><em>The Conversation</em></a><em>. </em></p>

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Why men and women experience happiness differently

<p>Who’s happier, men or women? Research shows it’s a complicated question and that asking whether males or females are happier isn’t really that helpful, because essentially, <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/008124630303300403">happiness is different for women and men</a>.</p> <p>Women’s happiness has been declining for the past 30 years, <a href="http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.687.9042&amp;rep=rep1&amp;type=pdf">according to recent statistics</a>. And <a href="http://psycnet.apa.org/record/1992-05427-001">research shows</a> that women are twice as likely to experience depression compared with men. Gender differences in depression are well established and studies have found that biological, psychological and social factors <a href="https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s00406-002-0381-6.pdf">contribute to the disparity</a>.</p> <p>But research also shows that women are more likely to experience intense positive emotions – such as joy and happiness – compared to men. So it seems that women’s more intense positive emotions <a href="http://psycnet.apa.org/buy/1992-05427-001">balance out their higher risk of depression</a>. Research also shows women are more likely to try and get help and access treatment – allowing them to also <a href="https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/1491/f62e95cea0e9ef831be1eedb5daea5dce7b1.pdf">recover sooner</a>.</p> <p><a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1471-6402.2000.tb01024.x">Early studies</a> on gender and happiness found men and women were socialised to express different emotions. Women are more likely to express happiness, warmth and fear, which helps with social bonding and appears more consistent with the traditional role as primary caregiver, whereas men display more anger, pride and contempt, which are more consistent with a protector and provider role.</p> <p><strong>Brain research</strong></p> <p>Recent research suggests that these differences are not just social, but also in the brain. In <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306453009003151">numerous studies</a> females score higher than males in standard tests of emotion recognition, social sensitivity and empathy.</p> <p>Neuroimaging studies have investigated these findings further and discovered that females utilise more areas of the brain containing mirror neurons than males <a href="http://sites.oxy.edu/clint/physio/article/Genderdifferencesinbrainnetworkssupportingempathy.pdf">when they process emotions</a>. Mirror neurons allow us to experience the world from other people’s perspective, to understand their actions and intentions. This may explain why women can experience deeper sadness.</p> <p>Psychologically it seems men and women differ in the way they process and express emotions. With the exception of anger, women experience emotions more intensely and <a href="http://mason.gmu.edu/%7Etkashdan/publications/gratitude_genderdiff_JP.pdf">share their emotions more openly with others</a>. Studies have found in particular that women express more pro-social emotions – such as gratitude – which has been <a href="http://mason.gmu.edu/%7Etkashdan/publications/gratitude_genderdiff_JP.pdf">linked to greater happiness</a>. This supports the theory that women’s happiness is more dependent on relationships than men’s.</p> <p><strong>The anger issue</strong></p> <p>However within these studies lies a significant blind spot, which is that women often do feel anger as intensely as men, but do not express it openly as it is not viewed as socially acceptable.</p> <p>When men feel angry they are more likely to vocalise it and direct it at others, whereas women are more likely to <a href="https://trace.tennessee.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://scholar.google.co.uk/&amp;httpsredir=1&amp;article=1122&amp;context=utk_nurspubs">internalise and direct the anger at themselves</a>. Women ruminate rather than speak out. And this is where women’s vulnerability to stress and depression lies.</p> <p><a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/008124630303300403">Studies show</a> that men have greater problem solving abilities and cognitive flexibility which can contribute to greater resilience and positive mood. Women’s reactivity to stress makes it harder for them to challenge their thinking at times and this can <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/008124630303300403">exasperate symptoms of low mood</a>.</p> <p><strong>Putting others first</strong></p> <p>This inequality of happiness means that it is harder for women to maintain a happy state when faced with social expectations and constraints. Research into stress shows that women are more physically reactive to <a href="http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.323.2684&amp;rep=rep1&amp;type=pdf">social rejection compared with men</a>, for example. This means they are more likely to prioritise the needs of others over their own – and over time this can lead to resentment and feeling unfulfilled.</p> <p>Females in general prioritise doing the right thing over being happy, whereas men are better at the pursuit of pleasure and hedonism. Studies have also found that <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Heidi_Dempsey/publication/226845367_Unwanted_Identities_A_Key_Variable_in_Shame-Anger_Links_and_Gender_Differences_in_Shame/links/587f974108ae9275d4ee35fe/Unwanted-Identities-A-Key-Variable-in-Shame-Anger-Links-and-Gender-Differences-in-Shame.pdf">women tend to act more ethically than men</a> and are more likely to suffer feelings of shame if they are not seen to be doing “the right thing”. But female morality also leads them to engage in more fulfilling and impactful work. And this ultimately brings them <a href="https://valored.it/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Still-looking-for-room-at-the-top.pdf">greater joy, peace and contentment</a>.</p> <p>As you can see, it’s a complicated picture. Yes women are more sensitive to stress, more vulnerable to depression and trauma, but they are also incredibly resilient and significantly <a href="https://ac.els-cdn.com/S1877042816001270/1-s2.0-S1877042816001270-main.pdf?_tid=a0a0e343-33ec-48d6-af7d-e8cc17c43cfc&amp;acdnat=1540492141_d5f1196bd43a90f3e8b579965ec7a7e0">more capable of post-traumatic growth compared with men</a>. Studies show that this is due to their sociability and ability to connect at a deeper level with others, both male and female.</p> <p>It’s also important to recognise that despite these differences, the benefits of happiness are far reaching for both women and men. And that <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/337/bmj.a2338+">research shows</a> happiness is not merely the function of individual experience but ripples through social networks. Happiness is infectious and contagious – and it has a positive impact on the health and well-being of everyone.</p> <p><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/104507/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><em>Written by <span>Lowri Dowthwaite, Lecturer in Psychological Interventions, University of Central Lancashire</span>. Republished with permission of </em><a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/men-and-women-experience-happiness-differently-heres-why-104507" target="_blank"><em>The Conversation</em></a><em>. </em><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p>

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Anger management: Why we feel rage and how to control it

<p>You’re at the park with the kids. Everyone’s having fun, and then a strange dog appears. There’s no owner around. It’s eyeballing the kids. Immediately your <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26062169">threat system</a> becomes activated.</p> <p>You stand alert, fully focused on the dog; heart racing, fists clenched. The dog bolts in, baring its teeth, and you pounce. You’re in survival mode, full of rage and violence. You yell fiercely, and you kick and hit, or grab the dog by the scruff of the neck, not caring if you snap its jaw.</p> <p>The dog yelps its surrender and flees, while you stand guard in front of your children.</p> <p><a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/bjc.12043/pdf">This type</a> of anger and aggression is the “fight” side of the “fight or flight response”. This <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8318932">physiological response</a>, according to <a href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0896627312001298">evolutionary psychology</a>, prepares our bodies to fight off a threat or to flee.</p> <p>It’s such an important part of human survival, and yet it can come at a cost for modern humans. Anger, and aggression in particular, can have serious consequences when it manifests in violence <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18855319">on the streets</a>, in <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7806730">the home</a> and elsewhere in the community.</p> <p><strong>We all get angry</strong></p> <p>Anger is one of the seven universal emotions that are common across gender, ages and cultures, according to leading emotion researcher <a href="http://emr.sagepub.com/content/3/4/364.short?rss=1&amp;ssource=mfc">Paul Ekman</a>. Anger, he says, can be the result of something interfering with us achieving a goal we care about, or when we experience or perceive something threatening to us, either physically or psychologically.</p> <p>Anger is quick (think of the term “short-tempered”), it focuses all of our attention on the threat, and it manifests in our bodies, usually starting in the pit of our stomach, rising up to our face and causing us to grimace and clench our fists. When anger builds, it’s expressed physically with a yell, punch or kick.</p> <p>In the short term, anger <a href="https://www.newharbinger.com/compassionate-mind-guide-managing-your-anger">can be</a> powerful and rewarding; the person who is angry typically gets what they want.</p> <p>But do you like being in the company of an angry person? Most people say no, and that is one of the chief consequences of anger: it is often damaging to relationships and isolating for the angry person.</p> <p>So anger itself is not the problem, it’s how we manage it and express it.</p> <p><strong>Anger disorder</strong></p> <p>There is no clear diagnosis of an anger disorder, but the <a href="http://dsm.psychiatryonline.org/doi/book/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596">psychiatric diagnostic manual</a> does include “intermittent explosive disorder”, which is characterised by recurrent behavioural outbursts representing a failure to control aggressive impulses. This <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16754840">affects</a> 7.3% of the population at some point in their life and 3.9% in the past 12 months.</p> <p>Anger, however, is a <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1093/clipsy.10.1.70/epdf">common clinical presentation</a> that features across an array of different mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance use disorders and many more.</p> <p>If you begin to notice that you are on edge quite a lot, do things that you later regret, are quick to react instead of respond, and that you have people in your life who have told you that you tend to get angry, it might be helpful to do something about it.</p> <p>You can begin by speaking to your general practitioner and, if needed, ask for a referral to see a psychologist. Or you can go straight to a psychologist if you’re happy to forgo the Medicare rebate.</p> <p><strong>Anger management</strong></p> <p>In therapy for anger, clients are asked:</p> <blockquote> <p>What would be your greatest fear in giving up or significantly reducing your anger?</p> </blockquote> <p>Many respond with a fear of being hurt, fear of not being able to stand up for oneself, or fear of unjust or unfair things happening. These are all reasonable responses.</p> <p>But anger is not aggressiveness. Anger may lead to aggressiveness, but when we feel angry, we can try to relate to it in a way that invokes feelings of wisdom, strength, courage and assertiveness.</p> <p>Group and individual anger-management programs, run by psychologists, have <a href="http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/1976-28412-001">good success rates</a>. A <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1093/clipsy.10.1.70/epdf">meta-analysis</a> examining anger-management programs across 92 studies found that cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT) strategies helped to significantly reduce anger and aggressiveness, and also to increase positive behaviours.</p> <p>Some clinicians are also using a newer technique called <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/bjc.12043/pdf">compassion-focused therapy</a> (CFT).</p> <p>CFT differs to past therapies, as it focuses on understanding how our brains are “tricky things” that can get us caught up in all sorts of difficult patterns and loops. So, from a CFT perspective, we need to first understand the brain and how it functions so we can better help ourselves when anger shows.</p> <p>Anger expert <a href="http://www.compassionatemind.co.uk/resources/video15.htm">Russell Kolts</a> has developed a new CFT-based anger-management program called <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QG4Z185MBJE">True Strength</a>, which he is evaluating with prisoners. The aim is to start directing compassion toward ourselves to help us self-soothe, feel more comfortable and work with the distress and negative feelings that fuel our anger.</p> <p><strong>Tips to manage your anger</strong></p> <p><a href="http://www.psychology.org.au/publications/tip_sheets/anger/">The Australian Psychological Society</a> has some tips to help manage anger for when it shows in everyday life:</p> <ul> <li><strong>Identify the triggers for your anger</strong>, such as environments and people.</li> <li><strong>Notice the bodily warning signs of anger</strong>: tightness in shoulders, increased heart rate, hot face.</li> <li><strong>Draw on a strategy that works for you</strong>. This could include slowing down your breathing, imagery, evaluating your thoughts, taking time out and changing your environment, or using relaxation skills.</li> <li><strong>Rehearse your anger strategies</strong>. Imagine being in a situation that makes you angry and draw upon one of your skills.</li> </ul> <p>Remember, anger in itself is not the problem. The problem lies in how we manage and express it. The Dalai Lama may have said it best: “The true hero is one who conquers his own anger.”<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/50209/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em>Written by <span>James Kirby, Research Fellow in Clinical Psychology, The University of Queensland and Stan Steindl, Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychology, The University of Queensland</span>. Republished with permission of </em><a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/anger-management-why-we-feel-rage-and-how-to-control-it-50209" target="_blank"><em>The Conversation</em></a><em>. </em></p>

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Why we should stop trying to be happy

<p>A huge happiness and positive thinking industry, estimated to be worth <a href="https://www.forbes.com/2009/10/14/positive-thinking-myths-lifestyle-health-happiness.html#60bdbfc518ed">US$11 billion a year</a>, has helped to create the fantasy that happiness is a realistic goal. Chasing the happiness dream is a very American concept, exported to the rest of the world through popular culture. Indeed, “the pursuit of happiness” is one of the US’s “unalienable rights”. Unfortunately, this has helped to create an expectation that real life stubbornly refuses to deliver.</p> <p>Because even when all our material and biological needs are satisfied, a state of sustained happiness will still remain a theoretical and elusive goal, as Abd-al-Rahman III, Caliph of Córdoba in the tenth century, discovered. He was one of the most powerful men of his time, who enjoyed military and cultural achievements, as well as the earthly pleasures of his two harems. Towards the end of his life, however, he decided to count the exact number of days during which he had felt happy. They amounted to <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry/article/happy-days-psychiatry-in-history/DFE0D1D9758A8C54BB2E993EA1FF4194">precisely 14</a>.</p> <p>Happiness, as the Brazilian poet Vinicius de Moraes put it, is “like a feather flying in the air. It flies light, but not for very long.” Happiness is a human construct, an abstract idea with no equivalent in actual human experience. Positive and negative affects do reside in the brain, but sustained happiness has no biological basis. And – perhaps surprisingly – I reckon this is something to be happy about.</p> <p><strong>Nature and evolution</strong></p> <p>Humans are not designed to be happy, or even content. Instead, we are designed primarily to survive and reproduce, like every other creature in the natural world. A state of contentment is discouraged by nature because it would lower our guard against possible threats to our survival.</p> <p>The fact that evolution has prioritised the development of a big frontal lobe in our brain (which gives us excellent executive and analytical abilities) over a natural ability to be happy, tells us a lot about nature’s priorities. Different geographical locations and circuits in the brain are each associated with certain neurological and intellectual functions, but happiness, being a mere construct with no neurological basis, cannot be found in the brain tissue.</p> <p>In fact, experts in this field argue that nature’s failure to weed out depression in the evolutionary process (despite the obvious disadvantages in terms of survival and reproduction) is due precisely to the fact that depression as an adaptation plays <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S027858460600008X?via%3Dihub">a useful role</a> in times of adversity, by helping the depressed individual disengage from risky and hopeless situations in which he or she cannot win. Depressive ruminations can also have a <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2734449/">problem solving function</a> during difficult times.</p> <p><strong>Morality</strong></p> <p>The current global happiness industry has some of its roots in Christian morality codes, many of which will tell us that there is a moral reason for any unhappiness we may experience. This, they will often say, is due to our own moral shortcomings, selfishness and materialism. They preach a state of virtuous psychological balance through renunciation, detachment and holding back desire.</p> <p>In fact, these strategies merely try to find a remedy for our innate inability to enjoy life consistently, so we should take comfort in the knowledge that unhappiness is not really our fault. It is the fault of our natural design. It is in our blueprint.</p> <p>Advocates of a morally correct path to happiness also disapprove of taking shortcuts to pleasure with the help of psychotropic drugs. George Bernard Shaw said: “We have no more right to consume happiness without producing it than to consume wealth without producing it.” Well-being apparently needs to be earned, which proves that it is not a natural state.</p> <p>The inhabitants of Aldous Huxley’s <em>Brave New World</em> live perfectly happy lives with the help of “soma”, the drug that keeps them docile but content. In his novel, Huxley implies that a free human being must inevitably be tormented by difficult emotions. Given the choice between emotional torment and content placidity, I suspect many would prefer the latter.</p> <p>But “soma” doesn’t exist, so the problem isn’t that accessing reliable and consistent satisfaction by chemical means is illicit; rather that it’s impossible. Chemicals alter the mind (which can be a good thing sometimes), but since happiness is not related to a particular functional brain pattern, we cannot replicate it chemically.</p> <p><strong>Happy and unhappy</strong></p> <p>Our emotions are mixed and impure, messy, tangled and at times contradictory, like everything else in our lives. Research has shown that positive and negative emotions and affects can coexist in the brain relatively <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0068015">independently of each other</a>. This model shows that the right hemisphere processes negative emotions preferentially, whereas positive emotions are dealt with by the left-sided brain.</p> <p>It’s worth remembering, then, that we are not designed to be consistently happy. Instead, we are designed to survive and reproduce. These are difficult tasks, so we are meant to struggle and strive, seek gratification and safety, fight off threats and avoid pain. The model of competing emotions offered by coexisting pleasure and pain fits our reality much better than the unachievable bliss that the happiness industry is trying to sell us. In fact, pretending that any degree of pain is abnormal or pathological will only foster feelings of inadequacy and frustration.</p> <p>Postulating that there is no such thing as happiness may appear to be a purely negative message, but the silver lining, the consolation, is the knowledge that dissatisfaction is not a personal failure. If you are unhappy at times, this is not a shortcoming that demands urgent repair, as the happiness gurus would have it. Far from it. This fluctuation is, in fact, what makes you human.</p> <p><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/119262/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><em>Written by <span>Rafael Euba, Consultant and Senior Lecturer in Old Age Psychiatry, King's College London</span>. Republished with permission of </em><a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/humans-arent-designed-to-be-happy-so-stop-trying-119262" target="_blank"><em>The Conversation</em></a><em>. </em><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. 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Are brain games mostly BS?

<p>You’ve probably seen ads for apps promising to make you smarter in just a few minutes a day. Hundreds of so-called “brain training” programs can be purchased for download. These simple games are designed to challenge mental abilities, with the ultimate goal of improving the performance of important everyday tasks.</p> <p>But can just clicking away at animations of swimming fish or flashed streets signs on your phone really help you improve the way your brain functions?</p> <p>Two large groups of scientists and mental health practitioners published consensus statements, months apart in 2014, on the effectiveness of these kinds of brain games. Both included people with years of research experience and expertise in cognition, learning, skill acquisition, neuroscience and dementia. Both groups carefully considered the same body of evidence available at the time.</p> <p>Yet, they issued exactly opposite statements.</p> <p><a href="http://longevity.stanford.edu/a-consensus-on-the-brain-training-industry-from-the-scientific-community-2/">One concluded</a> that “there is little evidence that playing brain games improves underlying broad cognitive abilities, or that it enables one to better navigate a complex realm of everyday life.”</p> <p><a href="https://www.cognitivetrainingdata.org/the-controversy-does-brain-training-work/response-letter/">The other</a> argued that “a substantial and growing body of evidence shows that certain cognitive training regimens can significantly improve cognitive function, including in ways that generalize to everyday life.”</p> <p>These two competing contradictory statements highlight a deep disagreement among experts, and a fundamental dispute over what counts as convincing evidence for something to be true.</p> <p>Then, in 2016, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission entered into the fray with a series of rulings, including a US$50 million judgment (later reduced to $2 million) <a href="https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2016/01/lumosity-pay-2-million-settle-ftc-deceptive-advertising-charges">against one of the most heavily advertised brain training packages</a> on the market. The FTC concluded that Lumos Labs’ advertisements – touting the ability of its Lumosity brain training program to improve consumers’ cognition, boost their performance at school and work, protect them against Alzheimer’s disease and help treat symptoms of ADHD – were not grounded in evidence.</p> <p>In light of conflicting claims and scientific statements, advertisements and government rulings, what are consumers supposed to believe? Is it worth your time and money to invest in brain training? What types of benefits, if any, can you expect? Or would your time be better spent doing something else?</p> <p><a href="https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=W9Ow0H8AAAAJ&amp;hl=en&amp;oi=ao">I’m a cognitive scientist</a> and member of Florida State University’s <a href="https://isl.fsu.edu/">Institute for Successful Longevity</a>. I have studied cognition, human performance and the effects of different types of training for nearly two decades. I’ve conducted laboratory studies that have directly put to the test the ideas that are the foundation of the claims made by brain training companies.</p> <p>Based on these experiences, my optimistic answer to the question of whether brain training is worth it would be “we just don’t know.” But the actual answer may very well be “no.”</p> <h2>How well does research measure improvements?</h2> <p>My colleagues and I have argued that most of the pertinent studies <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1529100616661983">fall far short of being able to provide definitive evidence</a> either way.</p> <p>Some of these problems are statistical in nature.</p> <p>Brain training studies often look at its effect on multiple cognitive tests – of attention, memory, reasoning ability and so on – over time. This strategy makes sense in order to uncover the breadth of potential gains.</p> <p>But, for every test administered, there’s a chance that scores will improve just by chance alone. The more tests administered, the greater the chance that researchers <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797611417632">will see at least one false alarm</a>.</p> <p>Brain training studies that include many tests and then report only one or two significant results cannot be trusted unless they control for the number of tests being administered. Unfortunately, many studies do not, calling their findings into question.</p> <p>Another design problem has to do with <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691613491271">inadequate control groups</a>. To claim that a treatment had an effect, the group receiving the treatment needs to be compared to a group that does not. It’s possible, for example, that people receiving brain training improve on an assessment test just because they’ve already taken it – before and then again after training. Since the control group also takes the test twice, cognitive improvements based on practice effects can be ruled out.</p> <p>Many studies that have been used to support the effectiveness of brain training have compared the effect of brain training to a control group that did nothing. The problem is any difference observed between the training group and the control group in these cases could easily be explained by a placebo effect.</p> <p>Placebo effects are improvements that are not the direct result of a treatment, but due to participants <a href="https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.1994.03510440069036">expecting to feel or perform better</a> as a result of having received a treatment. This is an important concern in any intervention study, whether aimed at understanding the effect of a new drug or a new brain training product.</p> <p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s41465-018-0115-y">Researchers now realize</a> that doing something generates a greater expectation of improvement than doing nothing. Recognition of the likelihood for a placebo effect is shifting standards for testing the effectiveness of brain games. Now studies are much more likely to use an active control group made up of participants who perform some alternative non-brain training activity, rather than doing nothing.</p> <p>Still, these active controls don’t go far enough to control for expectations. For instance, it’s unlikely that a participant in a control condition that features computerized crossword puzzles or educational videos will expect improvement as much as a participant assigned to try fast-paced and adaptive commercial brain training products – products specifically touted as being able to improve cognition. Yet, studies with these inadequate designs <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0134467">continue to claim to provide evidence</a> that commercial brain training works. It remains rare for studies to measure expectations in order to help understand and counteract potential placebo effects.</p> <p>Participants in our studies do develop expectations based on their training condition, and are especially <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s41465-017-0050-3">optimistic regarding the effects of brain training</a>. Unmatched expectations between groups are a serious concern, because there is growing evidence suggesting cognitive tests are susceptible to placebo effects, including tests of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/09658211.2011.592500">memory</a>, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1601243113">intelligence</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s41465-019-00130-x">attention</a>.</p> <h2>Is there a likely mechanism for improvement?</h2> <p>There’s another important question that needs to be addressed: Should brain training work? That is, given what scientists know about how people learn and acquire new skills, should we expect training on one task to improve the performance of another, untrained task? This is the fundamental claim being made by brain training companies – that engaging in games on a computer or mobile device will improve your performance on all sorts of tasks that are not the game you’re playing.</p> <p>As one example, “<a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/62.special_issue_1.19">speed of processing training</a>” has been incorporated into commercial brain training products. The goal here is to improve the detection of objects in the periphery, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1097/01.opx.0000175009.08626.65">which can be useful in avoiding an automobile crash</a>. A brain game may take the form of nature scenes with birds presented in the periphery; players must locate specific birds, even though the image is presented only briefly. But can finding birds on a screen help you detect and avoid, for example, a pedestrian stepping off the curb while you’re driving?</p> <p>This is a crucial question. Few people care much about improving their score on an abstract computerized brain training exercise. What is important is improving their ability to perform everyday tasks that relate to their safety, well-being, independence and success in life. But <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1529100616661983">over a century of research</a> suggests that learning and training gains tend to be extremely specific. Transferring gains from one task to another can be a challenge.</p> <p>Consider the individual known as SF, who was able, with extended practice, to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1126/science.7375930">improve his memory for numbers</a> from seven to 79 digits. After training, he was able to hear a list of 79 randomly generated digits and immediately repeat this list of numbers back, perfectly, without delay. But he could still remember and repeat back only about six letters of the alphabet.</p> <p>This is just one of many examples in which individuals can vastly improve their performance on a task, but demonstrate no training gains at all when presented with an even slightly different challenge. If the benefits of training on remembering digits do not transfer to remembering letters, why would training on virtual bird-spotting transfer to driving, academic performance or everyday memory?</p> <h2>Staying mentally spry</h2> <p>Brain training programs are an appealing shortcut, a “get smart quick” scheme. But improving or maintaining cognition is likely not going to be quick and easy. Instead, it may require a lifetime – or at least an extended period – of cognitive challenge and learning.</p> <p>If you’re worried about your cognition, what should you do?</p> <p>First, if you do engage in brain games, and you enjoy them, please continue to play. But keep your expectations realistic. If you’re playing solely to obtain cognitive benefits, instead consider other activities that might be as cognitively stimulating, or at least more fulfilling – like learning a new language, for instance, or learning to play an instrument.</p> <p>Some evidence suggests that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691617707316">physical exercise can potentially help maintain cognition</a>. Even if exercise had no effect on cognition at all, it has <a href="https://order.nia.nih.gov/sites/default/files/2018-04/nia-exercise-guide.pdf">clear benefits to physical health</a> – so why not move your body a bit?</p> <p>The most important lesson from the literature on training is this: If you want to improve your performance on a task that’s important to you, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1553-2712.2008.00227.x">practice that task</a>. Playing brain games may only make you better at playing brain games.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/113881/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em>Written by <span>Walter Boot, Professor of Cognitive Psychology, Florida State University</span>. Republished with permission of </em><a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/are-brain-games-mostly-bs-113881" target="_blank"><em>The Conversation</em></a><em>. </em></p>

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