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What ‘psychological warfare’ tactics do scammers use, and how can you protect yourself?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mike-johnstone-106590">Mike Johnstone</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/edith-cowan-university-720">Edith Cowan University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/georgia-psaroulis-1513050">Georgia Psaroulis</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/edith-cowan-university-720">Edith Cowan University</a></em></p> <p>Not a day goes by without a headline <a href="https://www.vice.com/en/article/qjvaym/people-share-worst-scam-stories">about a victim being scammed</a> and losing money. We are constantly warned about new scams and staying safe from cybercriminals. Scamwatch has <a href="https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/research-and-resources/tools-resources/online-resources/spot-the-scam-signs">no shortage of resources</a>, too.</p> <p>So why are people still getting scammed, and sometimes spectacularly so?</p> <p>Scammers use sophisticated psychological techniques. They exploit our deepest human vulnerabilities and bypass rational thought to tap into our emotional responses.</p> <p>This “<a href="https://www.thecut.com/article/amazon-scam-call-ftc-arrest-warrants.html">psychological warfare</a>” coerces victims into making impulsive decisions. Sometimes scammers spread their methods around many potential victims to see who is vulnerable. Other times, criminals focus on a specific person.</p> <p>Let’s unpack some of these psychological techniques, and how you can defend against them.</p> <h2>1. Random phone calls</h2> <p>Scammers start with small requests to establish a sense of commitment. After agreeing to these minor requests, we are more likely to comply with larger demands, driven by a desire to act consistently.</p> <p>The call won’t come from a number in your contacts or one you recognise, but the scammer may pretend to be someone you’ve engaged to work on your house, or perhaps one of your children using a friend’s phone to call you.</p> <p>If it is a scammer, maybe keeping you on the phone for a long time gives them an opportunity to find out things about you or people you know. They can use this info either immediately or at a later date.</p> <h2>2. Creating a sense of urgency</h2> <p>Scammers fabricate scenarios that require immediate action, like claiming a bank account is at risk of closure or an offer is about to expire. This tactic aims to prevent victims from assessing the situation logically or seeking advice, pressuring them into rushed decisions.</p> <p>The scammer creates an artificial situation in which you are frightened into doing something you wouldn’t ordinarily do. Scam calls <a href="https://theconversation.com/we-have-filed-a-case-under-your-name-beware-of-tax-scams-theyll-be-everywhere-this-eofy-162171">alleging to be from the Australian Tax Office</a> (ATO) are a great example. You have a debt to pay (apparently) and things will go badly if you don’t pay <em>right now</em>.</p> <p>Scammers play on your emotions to provoke reactions that cloud judgement. They may threaten legal trouble to instil fear, promise high investment returns to exploit greed, or share fabricated distressing stories to elicit sympathy and financial assistance.</p> <h2>3. Building rapport with casual talk</h2> <p>Through extended conversation, scammers build a psychological commitment to their scheme. No one gets very far by just demanding your password, but it’s natural to be friendly with people who are friendly towards us.</p> <p>After staying on the line for long periods of time, the victim also becomes cognitively fatigued. This not only makes the victim more open to suggestions, but also isolates them from friends or family who might recognise and counteract the scam.</p> <h2>4. Help me to help you</h2> <p>In this case, the scammer creates a situation where they help you to solve a real or imaginary problem (that they actually created). They work their “IT magic” and the problem goes away.</p> <p>Later, they ask you for something you wouldn’t normally do, and you do it because of the “social debt”: they helped you first.</p> <p>For example, a hacker might attack a corporate network, causing it to slow down. Then they call you, pretending to be from your organisation, perhaps as a recent hire not yet on the company’s contact list. They “help” you by turning off the attack, leaving you suitably grateful.</p> <p>Perhaps a week later, they call again and ask for sensitive information, such as the CEO’s password. You <em>know</em> company policy is to not divulge it, but the scammer will ask if you remember them (of course you do) and come up with an excuse for why they really need this password.</p> <p>The balance of the social debt says you will help them.</p> <h2>5. Appealing to authority</h2> <p>By posing as line managers, officials from government agencies, banks, or other authoritative bodies, scammers exploit our natural tendency to obey authority.</p> <p>Such scams operate at varying levels of sophistication. The simple version: your manager messages you with an <em>urgent</em> request to purchase some gift cards and send through their numbers.</p> <p>The complex version: your manager calls and asks to urgently transfer a large sum of money to an account you don’t recognise. You do this because <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/fraudsters-use-ai-to-mimic-ceos-voice-in-unusual-cybercrime-case-11567157402">it sounds exactly</a> like your manager on the phone – but the scammer <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/thomasbrewster/2021/10/14/huge-bank-fraud-uses-deep-fake-voice-tech-to-steal-millions/?sh=1329b80e7559">is using a voice deepfake</a>. In a recent major case in Hong Kong, such a scam even involved a <a href="https://edition.cnn.com/2024/02/04/asia/deepfake-cfo-scam-hong-kong-intl-hnk/index.html">deepfake video call</a>.</p> <p>This is deeply challenging because artificial intelligence tools, such as Microsoft’s VALL-E, can create <a href="https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2023/01/microsofts-new-ai-can-simulate-anyones-voice-with-3-seconds-of-audio/">a voice deepfake</a> using just three seconds of sampled audio from a real person.</p> <h2>How can you defend against a scam?</h2> <p>First and foremost, <strong>verify identity</strong>. Find another way to contact the person to verify who they are. For example, you can call a generic number for the business and ask to be connected.</p> <p>In the face of rampant voice deepfakes, it can be helpful to <strong>agree on a “safe word” with your family members</strong>. If they call from an unrecognised number and you don’t hear the safe word just hang up.</p> <p>Watch out for <strong>pressure tactics</strong>. If the conversation is moving too fast, remember that someone else’s problem is not yours to solve. Stop and run the problem past a colleague or family member for a sanity check. A legitimate business will have no problem with you doing this.</p> <p>Lastly, if you are not sure about even the slightest detail, the simplest thing is to hang up or not respond. If you really owe a tax debt, the ATO will write to you.<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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/223959/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mike-johnstone-106590"><em>Mike Johnstone</em></a><em>, Security Researcher, Associate Professor in Resilient Systems, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/edith-cowan-university-720">Edith Cowan University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/georgia-psaroulis-1513050">Georgia Psaroulis</a>, Postdoctoral research fellow, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/edith-cowan-university-720">Edith Cowan University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-psychological-warfare-tactics-do-scammers-use-and-how-can-you-protect-yourself-223959">original article</a>.</em></p>

Money & Banking

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Does running water really trigger the urge to pee? Experts explain the brain-bladder connection

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/james-overs-1458017">James Overs</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/swinburne-university-of-technology-767">Swinburne University of Technology</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/david-homewood-1458022">David Homewood</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/melbourne-health-950">Melbourne Health</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/helen-elizabeth-oconnell-ao-1458226">Helen Elizabeth O'Connell AO</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/simon-robert-knowles-706104">Simon Robert Knowles</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/swinburne-university-of-technology-767">Swinburne University of Technology</a></em></p> <p>We all know that feeling when nature calls – but what’s far less understood is the psychology behind it. Why, for example, do we get the urge to pee just before getting into the shower, or when we’re swimming? What brings on those “nervous wees” right before a date?</p> <p>Research suggests our brain and bladder are in constant communication with each other via a neural network called the <a href="https://www.einj.org/journal/view.php?doi=10.5213/inj.2346036.018">brain-bladder axis</a>.</p> <p>This complex web of circuitry is comprised of sensory neural activity, including the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. These neural connections allow information to be sent <a href="https://doi.org/10.3390/diagnostics12123119">back and forth</a> between the brain and bladder.</p> <p>The brain-bladder axis not only facilitates the act of peeing, but is also responsible for telling us we need to go in the first place.</p> <h2>How do we know when we need to go?</h2> <p>As the bladder fills with urine and expands, this activates special receptors detecting stretch in the nerve-rich lining of the bladder wall. This information is then relayed to the “periaqueductal gray” – a part of the brain in the brainstem which <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nrn2401">constantly monitors</a> the bladder’s filling status.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/547931/original/file-20230913-19-2kgkhk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/547931/original/file-20230913-19-2kgkhk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/547931/original/file-20230913-19-2kgkhk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=454&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/547931/original/file-20230913-19-2kgkhk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=454&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/547931/original/file-20230913-19-2kgkhk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=454&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/547931/original/file-20230913-19-2kgkhk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=570&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/547931/original/file-20230913-19-2kgkhk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=570&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/547931/original/file-20230913-19-2kgkhk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=570&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="" /></a><figcaption><span class="caption">The periaqueductal gray is a section of gray matter located in the midbrain section of the brainstem.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="source" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brainstem#/media/File:1311_Brain_Stem.jpg">Wikimedia/OpenStax</a>, <a class="license" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/">CC BY-SA</a></span></figcaption></figure> <p>Once the bladder reaches a certain threshold (roughly 250-300ml of urine), another part of the brain called the “pontine micturition centre” is activated and signals that the bladder needs to be emptied. We, in turn, <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16254993/">register this</a> as that all-too-familiar feeling of fullness and pressure down below.</p> <p>Beyond this, however, a range of situations can trigger or exacerbate our need to pee, by increasing the production of urine and/or stimulating reflexes in the bladder.</p> <h2>Peeing in the shower</h2> <p>If you’ve ever felt the need to pee while in the shower (no judgement here) it may be due to the sight and sound of running water.</p> <p>In a 2015 study, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0126798">researchers demonstrated</a> that males with urinary difficulties found it easier to initiate peeing when listening to the sound of running water being played on a smartphone.</p> <p>Symptoms of overactive bladder, including urgency (a sudden need to pee), have also been <a href="https://www.alliedacademies.org/articles/environmental-cues-to-urgency-and-incontinence-episodes-in-chinesepatients-with-overactive-urinary-bladder-syndrome.html">linked to</a> a range of environmental cues involving running water, including washing your hands and taking a shower.</p> <p>This is likely due to both physiology and psychology. Firstly, the sound of running water may have a relaxing <em>physiological</em> effect, increasing activity of the parasympathetic nervous system. This would relax the bladder muscles and prepare the bladder for emptying.</p> <p>At the same time, the sound of running water may also have a conditioned <em>psychological</em> effect. Due to the countless times in our lives where this sound has coincided with the actual act of peeing, it may trigger an instinctive reaction in us to urinate.</p> <p>This would happen in the same way <a href="https://www.simplypsychology.org/pavlov.html">Pavlov’s dog learnt</a>, through repeated pairing, to salivate when a bell was rung.</p> <h2>Cheeky wee in the sea</h2> <p>But it’s not just the sight or sound of running water that makes us want to pee. Immersion in cold water has been shown to cause a “cold shock response”, <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19945970">which activates</a> the sympathetic nervous system.</p> <p>This so-called “fight or flight” response drives up our blood pressure which, in turn, causes our kidneys to filter out more fluid from the bloodstream to stabilise our blood pressure, in a process called “<a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00864230">immersion diuresis</a>”. When this happens, our bladder fills up faster than normal, triggering the urge to pee.</p> <p>Interestingly, immersion in very warm water (such as a relaxing bath) may also increase urine production. In this case, however, it’s due to activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s004210050065">One study</a> demonstrated an increase in water temperature from 40℃ to 50℃ reduced the time it took for participants to start urinating.</p> <p>Similar to the effect of hearing running water, the authors of the study suggest being in warm water is calming for the body and activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This activation can result in the relaxation of the bladder and possibly the pelvic floor muscles, bringing on the urge to pee.</p> <h2>The nervous wee</h2> <p>We know stress and anxiety can cause bouts of nausea and butterflies in the tummy, but what about the bladder? Why do we feel a sudden and frequent urge to urinate at times of heightened stress, such as before a date or job interview?</p> <p>When a person becomes stressed or anxious, the body goes into fight-or-flight mode through the activation of the sympathetic nervous system. This triggers a cascade of physiological changes designed to prepare the body to face a perceived threat.</p> <p>As part of this response, the muscles surrounding the bladder may contract, leading to a more urgent and frequent need to pee. Also, as is the case during immersion diuresis, the increase in blood pressure associated with the stress response may <a href="https://doi.org/10.1172/JCI102496">stimulate</a> the kidneys to produce more urine.</p> <h2>Some final thoughts</h2> <p>We all pee (most of us several times a day). Yet <a href="https://doi.org/10.5489/cuaj.1150">research has shown</a> about 75% of adults know little about how this process actually works – and even less about the brain-bladdder axis and its role in urination.</p> <p><a href="https://www.continence.org.au/about-us/our-work/key-statistics-incontinence#:%7E:text=Urinary%20incontinence%20affects%20up%20to,38%25%20of%20Australian%20women1.">Most Australians</a> will experience urinary difficulties at some point in their lives, so if you ever have concerns about your urinary health, it’s extremely important to consult a healthcare professional.</p> <p>And should you ever find yourself unable to pee, perhaps the sight or sound of running water, a relaxing bath or a nice swim will help with getting that stream to flow.<!-- 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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/210808/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: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/james-overs-1458017"><em>James Overs</em></a><em>, Research Assistant, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/swinburne-university-of-technology-767">Swinburne University of Technology</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/david-homewood-1458022">David Homewood</a>, Urology Research Registrar, Western Health, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/melbourne-health-950">Melbourne Health</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/helen-elizabeth-oconnell-ao-1458226">Helen Elizabeth O'Connell AO</a>, Professor, University of Melbourne, Department of Surgery. President Urological Society Australia and New Zealand, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/simon-robert-knowles-706104">Simon Robert Knowles</a>, Associate Professor and Clinical Psychologist, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/swinburne-university-of-technology-767">Swinburne University of Technology</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/does-running-water-really-trigger-the-urge-to-pee-experts-explain-the-brain-bladder-connection-210808">original article</a>.</em></p>

Mind

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How ‘dad jokes’ may prepare your kids for a lifetime of embarrassment, according to psychology

<p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/shane-rogers-575838">Shane Rogers</a>, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/edith-cowan-university-720">Edith Cowan University</a></em> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/marc-hye-knudsen-1466723">Marc Hye-Knudsen</a>, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/aarhus-university-967">Aarhus University</a></em></p> <p>This Father’s Day you may be rolling out your best “<a href="https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dad%20joke">dad jokes</a>” and watching your children laugh (or groan). Maybe you’ll hear your own father, partner or friend crack a dad joke or two. You know the ones:</p> <p>"What is the most condescending animal? A pan-DUH!"</p> <p>"Why don’t scientists trust atoms? Because they make up everything!"</p> <p>Yes, dad jokes can be fun. They play an important role in how we interact with our kids. But dad jokes may also help prepare them to handle embarrassment later in life.</p> <h2>What are dad jokes?</h2> <p>Dad jokes are a distinct style of humour consisting of puns that are simple, wholesome and often involve a cheesy delivery.</p> <p>These jokes usually feature obvious wordplay and a straightforward punchline that leaves listeners either chuckling or emitting an exaggerated groan.</p> <p>This corny brand of humour is popular. There are hundreds of <a href="https://www.menshealth.com/trending-news/a34437277/best-dad-jokes/">websites</a>, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAgYiERRDPY&amp;t=248s">YouTube videos</a> and <a href="https://www.tiktok.com/@mmmjoemele/video/7207443872232770858">TikToks</a> dedicated to them. You can even play around with <a href="https://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2019/06/us/dad-joke-generator-trnd/">dad joke generators</a> if you need some inspiration.</p> <h2>Why are dad jokes so popular?</h2> <p>People seem to love dad jokes, partly because of the puns.</p> <p>A <a href="https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0191886922005025">study</a> published earlier this year found people enjoy puns more than most other types of jokes. The authors also suggested that if you groan in response to a pun, this can be a sign you enjoy the joke, rather than find it displeasing.</p> <p>Other research shows dad jokes work on at least <a href="https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.26613/esic.5.2.248/html">three levels</a>:</p> <p><strong>1. As tame puns</strong></p> <p>Humour typically <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0956797610376073">violates</a> a kind of boundary. At the most basic level, dad jokes only violate <a href="https://www.taylorfrancis.com/chapters/edit/10.4324/9781315731162-7/puns-tacit-linguistic-knowledge-debra-aarons">a language norm</a>. They require specific knowledge of the language to “get” them, in a way a fart joke does not.</p> <p>The fact that dad jokes are wholesome and inoffensive means dads can tell them around their children. But this also potentially makes them tame, which other people might call unfunny.</p> <p><strong>2. As anti-humour</strong></p> <p>Telling someone a pun that’s too tame to deserve being told out loud is itself a violation of the norms of joke-telling. That violation can in turn make a dad joke funny. In other words, a dad joke can be so unfunny this makes it funny – a type of <a href="https://daily.jstor.org/the-dubious-art-of-the-dad-joke/">anti-humour</a>.</p> <p><strong>3. As weaponised anti-humour</strong></p> <p>Sometimes, the purpose of a dad joke is not to make people laugh but to make them groan and roll their eyes. When people tell dad jokes to <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2F0033-2909.127.2.229">teasingly</a> annoy someone else for fun, dad jokes work as a kind of <a href="https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.26613/esic.5.2.248/html">weaponised</a> anti-humour.</p> <p>The stereotypical scenario associated with dad jokes is exactly this: a dad telling a pun and then his kids rolling their eyes out of annoyance or cringing from embarrassment.</p> <h2>Dad jokes help dads be dads</h2> <p>Dad jokes are part of a father’s toolkit for engaging with his loved ones, a way to connect through laughter. But as children grow older, the way they receive puns change.</p> <p><a href="https://psychcentral.com/lib/humor-as-a-key-to-child-development#1">Children</a> at around six years old enjoy hearing and telling puns. These are generally innocent ones such as: "Why is six afraid of seven? Because seven ate nine!"</p> <p>As children age and their language and reasoning abilities develop, their understanding of humour becomes more complex.</p> <p>In adolescence, they may start to view puns as unfunny. This, however, doesn’t stop their fathers from telling them.</p> <p>Instead, fathers can revel in the embarrassment their dad jokes can produce around their image-conscious and <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/surviving-your-childs-adolescence/202203/adolescence-and-the-age-painful-embarrassment">sensitive</a> adolescent children.</p> <p>In fact, in a study, one of us (Marc) <a href="https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.26613/esic.5.2.248/html">suggests</a> the playful teasing that comes with dad jokes may be partly why they are such a widespread cultural phenomenon.</p> <p>This playful and safe teasing serves a dual role in father-child bonding in adolescence. Not only is it playful and fun, it can also be used to help <a href="https://www.dadsuggests.com/home/the-best-dad-jokes">educate</a> the young person how to handle feeling embarrassed.</p> <p>Helping children learn how to deal with embarrassment is no laughing matter. Getting better at this is a very important part of learning how to <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01650250143000535">regulate emotions</a> and develop <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2022.980104/full">resilience</a>.</p> <p>Modelling the use of humour also has benefits. Jokes can be a useful <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12144-019-00296-9">coping strategy</a> during <a href="https://psychcentral.com/lib/humor-as-weapon-shield-and-psychological-salve">awkward situations</a> – for instance, after someone says <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nuRnsrHEQFg">something awkward</a> or to make someone laugh who has <a href="https://www.helpguide.org/articles/relationships-communication/managing-conflicts-with-humor.htm">become upset</a>.</p> <h2>Dad jokes are more than punchlines</h2> <p>So, the next time you hear your father unleash a cringe-worthy dad joke, remember it’s not just about the punchline. It’s about creating connections and lightening the mood.</p> <p>So go ahead, let out that groan, and share a smile with the one who proudly delivers the dad jokes. It’s all part of the fun.<!-- 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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/212109/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: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/shane-rogers-575838"><em>Shane Rogers</em></a><em>, Lecturer in Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/edith-cowan-university-720">Edith Cowan University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/marc-hye-knudsen-1466723">Marc Hye-Knudsen</a>, Cognition and Behavior Lab, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/aarhus-university-967">Aarhus University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-dad-jokes-may-prepare-your-kids-for-a-lifetime-of-embarrassment-according-to-psychology-212109">original article</a>.</em></p>

Family & Pets

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6 silent signs you’re being lied to

<h4>Is there a liar in the room?</h4> <p>Lies occur between friends, teachers and students, husbands and wives, lawyers and clients – yet nobody wants to be caught.</p> <p>“I’ve interviewed crooks more apt to admit to a major crime than to lying,” says Glenn Woods, a criminal profiler, who’s been studying deceptive behaviour for more than a decade. “Everybody lies to some degree.”</p> <p>Of course, there’s a gulf that separates little white lies from the whoppers, but learning how to tell if someone is lying is a skill that’ll always come in handy. Here’s what to watch for.</p> <p><strong>1. Listen to the voices</strong></p> <p>Pay attention to voice changes like change in pitch or cracking; they may well indicate deceit.</p> <p>“A person’s voice pitch tends to be a bit higher when they’re lying than when they’re telling the truth,” says Dr Mary Ann Campbell, assistant professor of psychology. “It doesn’t mean they’re lying for sure, but there’s a higher likelihood.”</p> <p><strong>2. Watch those words</strong></p> <p>What about written material? Can we spot misleading behaviour in letters, emails and even resumés?</p> <p>Professor David Skillicorn and his students in the School of Computing at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, created software – based on the deception model developed at the University of Texas at Austin – that can sniff out lies in emails and other written material by studying the frequency and kinds of words used. Skillicorn says liars tend to use fewer exclusive words such as but, or and except. They also tend to use more negative-emotion words such as ashamed, upset and embarrassed. “These are the words that send up red flags,” says Skillicorn. “It’s as though some part of the brain is feeling bad and this comes out in the writing.”</p> <p><strong>3. Look past shifty eyes</strong></p> <p>While most people may interpret darting, unfocused eyes as a classic sign of lying, it’s vital to consider the context of the behaviour. For example, experienced poker players are careful not to make too much of eye “tells.” People usually look to the left or right when thinking about an answer. Someone not making eye contact should arouse suspicion, but eye contact, cautions Woods, can be a tricky evaluation tool: consider that a psychopath can look you in the eye and lie with ease. And in some cultures, it’s considered inappropriate to maintain eye contact.</p> <p><strong>4. Get better at body language</strong></p> <p>Even though a high percentage of communication is thought to be non-verbal, no single part of the body – such as the eyes or hands – reveals the whole story when it comes to lying. Campbell says people who are lying often become more still: Hand gestures that normally accompany talking may occur with less frequency or intensity, and there may be fewer arm and leg movements. “The person becomes more focused on telling the lie,” explains Campbell, “so they get quieter in their body.”</p> <p><strong>5. Ask questions – quickly</strong></p> <p>If you suspect you’re being deceived, try this technique, which experts say can trip up a liar.</p> <p>Try asking questions quickly – one after the other. “The initial lie is easy,” explains Kang Lee, professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education’s Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development. “The follow-up lie is more difficult. When you continue to ask questions and put people on the spot, it gets harder to maintain the lie.”</p> <p><strong>6. Check for emotional “leaks”</strong></p> <p>Micro-expressions that flit across the face often expose a person’s real thoughts. “If you were to watch people on videotape, frame by frame, you would see them showing their true emotion just before they show the fake expression designed to cover up the lie,” says Campbell.</p> <p>But these ultra-brief facial movements, some only lasting a quarter of a second, aren’t easy to spot. Even professionals trained in lie detection can’t always isolate them. And deliberate liars tend to add other expressions, like smiling, to disguise a lie.</p> <p>So, here’s hoping that the next time someone lobs a lie your way, you’ll know just how to catch it.</p> <p><em>Image: Getty</em></p> <p><em>This article is written by </em><em>Diane Sewell</em><em style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;"> originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/true-stories-lifestyle/relationships/6-silent-signs-youre-being-lied-to" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>.</em></p>

Relationships

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‘Psychological debriefing’ right after an accident or trauma can do more harm than good – here’s why

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/richard-bryant-161">Richard Bryant</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a></em></p> <p>The recent <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-06-18/hunter-valley-wedding-bus-crash-survivors-remain-in-hospital/102487630">tragic bus accident</a> in the New South Wales Hunter Valley has again raised the issue of how we address the potential psychological effects of traumatic events.</p> <p>It is interesting we revisit the same debate after each disaster, and few lessons have apparently been learned after decades of research. After the Hunter Valley accident, immediate psychological counselling was <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2023/jun/15/hunter-valley-bus-crash-company-issued-with-defect-notices-after-police-raid">offered to those affected</a>.</p> <p>While we can’t say what form of counselling was offered, the traditional approach is known as “<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1118833/">psychological debriefing</a>”. This typically involves counsellors providing trauma survivors with a single counselling intervention within days of the event.</p> <p>Although the content of the intervention can vary, it usually involves education about stress reactions, encouragement to disclose their memories of the experience, some basic stress-coping strategies and possibly referral information.</p> <p>But the evidence shows this approach, however well-meaning, may not help – or worse, do harm.</p> <h2>The belief that feelings must be shared</h2> <p>The encouragement of people to discuss their emotional reactions to a trauma is the result of a long-held notion in psychology (dating back to the classic writings of Sigmund Freud) that disclosure of one’s emotions is invariably beneficial for one’s mental health.</p> <p>Emanating from this perspective, the impetus for psychological debriefing has traditionally been rooted in the notion trauma survivors are vulnerable to psychological disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), if they do not “talk through their trauma” by receiving this very <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1529100610387086">early intervention</a>.</p> <p>The scenario of trauma counsellors appearing in the acute aftermath of traumatic events has been commonplace for decades in Australia and elsewhere.</p> <p>Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City in 2001, up to 9,000 counsellors were mobilised and more than <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/22/nyregion/finding-cure-for-hearts-broken-sept-11-is-as-difficult-as-explaining-the-cost.html">US$200 million</a> was projected to meet a surge in mental health needs. But fewer people than expected sought help under this program and $90 million remained <a href="https://theconversation.com/9-11-anniversary-a-watershed-for-psychological-response-to-disasters-2975">unspent</a>.</p> <h2>What do we know about psychological reactions to disasters?</h2> <p>The overwhelming evidence indicates the majority of people will <a href="http://www.psychologicalscience.org/publications/journals/pspi/weighing-the-costs-of-disaster.html">adapt</a> to traumatic events without any psychological intervention.</p> <p>Long-term studies indicate approximately 75% of trauma survivors will not experience any long-term distress. Others will experience short-term distress and subsequently adapt. A minority (usually about 10%) will <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1529100610387086">experience chronic psychological problems</a>.</p> <p>This last group are the ones who require care and attention to reduce their mental health problems. Experts now agree other trauma survivors can rely on their own <a href="https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/mental-health/problems-disorders/coping-after-a-traumatic-event">coping resources and social networks</a> to adapt to their traumatic experience.</p> <p>The finding across many studies that most people adapt to traumatic experiences <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1529100610387086">without formal mental health interventions</a> has been a major impetus for questioning the value of psychological debriefing in the immediate aftermath of disasters.</p> <p>In short, the evidence tells us universal interventions – such as psychological debriefing for everyone involved in a disaster – that attempt to prevent PTSD and other psychological disorders in trauma survivors are not indicated. These attempts <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1529100610387086#bibr448-1529100610387086">do not prevent</a> the disorder they are targeting.</p> <h2>Not a new conclusion</h2> <p>In the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, the World Health Organization listed a warning (which <a href="https://www.who.int/teams/mental-health-and-substance-use/treatment-care/mental-health-gap-action-programme/evidence-centre/other-significant-emotional-and-medical-unexplained-somatic-complaints/psychological-debriefing-in-people-exposed-to-a-recent-traumatic-event">still stands</a>) that people should not be given single-session psychological debriefing because it is <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1529100610387086#bibr448-1529100610387086">not supported</a> by evidence.</p> <p>Worse than merely being ineffective, debriefing can be <a href="https://www.jenonline.org/article/S0099-1767(19)30453-2/fulltext#:%7E:text=It%20is%20for%20these%20reasons,%2C%20anxiety%20or%20depressive%20symptoms.%E2%80%9D">harmful for some people</a> and may increase the risk of PTSD.</p> <p>The group of trauma survivors that are most vulnerable to the toxic effects of debriefing are those who are more distressed in the acute phase right after the trauma. This group of people have worse mental health outcomes if they are provided with early debriefing.</p> <p>This may be because their trauma memories are over-consolidated as a result of the emotional disclosure so shortly after the event, when <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181836/#:%7E:text=Brain%20areas%20implicated%20in%20the,norepinephrine%20responses%20to%20subsequent%20stressors.">stress hormones</a> are still highly active.</p> <p>In normal clinical practice a person would be assessed in terms of their suitability for any psychological intervention. But in the case of universal psychological debriefing there is no prior assessment. Therefore, there’s no assessment of the risks the intervention may pose for the person.</p> <h2>Replacing debriefing</h2> <p>Most international bodies have shifted away from psychological debriefing. Early intervention might now be offered as “<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/psychological-first-aid">psychological first aid</a>”.</p> <p>This newer approach is meant to provide <a href="https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789241548205">fundamental support and coping strategies</a> to help the person manage the immediate aftermath of adversity. One of the most important differences between psychological first aid and psychological debriefing is that it does not encourage people to disclose their emotional responses to the trauma.</p> <p>But despite the increasing popularity of psychological first aid, it is difficult to assess its effectiveness as it does not explicitly aim to prevent a disorder, such as PTSD.</p> <h2>Wanting to help</h2> <p>So if there is so much evidence, why do we keep having this debate about the optimal way to assist psychological adaptation after disasters? Perhaps it’s because it’s human nature to want to help.</p> <p>The evidence suggests we should monitor the most vulnerable people and target resources towards them when they need it – usually some weeks or months later when the dust of the trauma has settled. Counsellors might want to promote their activities in the acute phase after disasters, but it may not be in the best interest of the trauma survivors.</p> <p>In short, we need to develop better strategies to ensure we are meeting the needs of the survivors, rather than the counsellors.</p> <hr /> <p><em>If this article has raised issues for you, or if you’re concerned about someone you know, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.<!-- 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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/208139/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: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></em></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/richard-bryant-161">Richard Bryant</a>, Professor &amp; Director of Traumatic Stress Clinic, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/psychological-debriefing-right-after-an-accident-or-trauma-can-do-more-harm-than-good-heres-why-208139">original article</a>.</em></p>

Caring

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How scammers use psychology to create some of the most convincing internet cons – and what to watch out for

<p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/stacey-wood-473147"><em>Stacey Wood</em></a><em>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/scripps-college-2153">Scripps College</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/yaniv-hanoch-1341108">Yaniv Hanoch</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-southampton-1093">University of Southampton</a></em></p> <p><a href="https://www.experian.co.uk/blogs/latest-thinking/fraud-prevention/cybercrime-fraud-most-common-crime-uk/">Online fraud is today’s most common crime</a>. Victims are often told they are foolish for falling for it, but fraudsters use psychological mechanisms to infiltrate the defences of their targets, regardless of how intelligent they are.</p> <p>So it’s important to keep up with the latest scams and understand how they work.</p> <p>Recently, consumer protection magazine Which? <a href="https://www.which.co.uk/news/article/the-4-most-convincing-scams-weve-seen-in-2023-so-far-a7bRP9s0KJvG">identified some of the most convincing scams of 2023</a>. These scams all have one thing in common – they insidiously take advantage of people’s cognitive biases and psychological blind spots.</p> <p>They included “pig butchering” a way of fattening up victims with affection, the missing person scam which involves posting fake content on social media pages, the traditional PayPal scam, and a new scam called the “fake app alert” in which malware is hidden on apps that look legitimate.</p> <h2>Pig butchering</h2> <p>In our work as fraud psychology researchers we have noticed a trend towards hybrid scams, which combine different types of fraud. Hybrid scams often involve crypto investments and <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-fraud-crisis/202210/new-scams-committed-forced-trafficked-labor">sometimes use trafficked labour</a> In the US alone, <a href="https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices/springfield/news/internet-crime-complaint-center-releases-2022-statistics">the FBI recently reported</a> that people lost US $3.3 billion (£2.6 billion) in 2023 to investment fraud.</p> <p>Pig butchering is a long-term deception. <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2023/05/02/pig-butchering-scammers-make-billions-convincing-victims-of-love.html">This type of scam</a> combines elements of <a href="https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/a-z-of-fraud/romance-scams">romance scams</a> with an investment con. The name comes from the strategy of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/money/2023/may/22/dating-cons-and-dodgy-apps-among-most-common-scams-says-uk-watchdog">“fattening up” a victim with affection before slaughter</a>.</p> <p>It will usually begin with <a href="https://www.which.co.uk/policy-and-insight/article/pig-butchering-among-most-convincing-scams-of-2023-so-far-which-warns-aDRtr4I1UT1R">standard scam approach like a text</a>, social media message, or an introduction at a job board site.</p> <p>Victims may have their guard up at first. However, these scams can unfold over months, with the scammer slowly gaining the victims’ trust and initiating a romantic relationship all the while learning about their vulnerabilities.</p> <p>For example, details of their financial situation, job stresses, and dreams about the life they want. Romance scammers often saturate their targets with affection and almost constant contact. Pig butchering sometimes involves several trafficked people working as a team to create a single persona.</p> <p>Once the victim depends on the scammer for their emotional connection, the scammer introduces the idea of making an investment and uses fake crypto platforms to demonstrate returns. The scammers may use legitimate sounding cryptocoins and platforms. Victims can invest and “see” strong returns online. In reality, their money is going directly to the scammer.</p> <p>Once a victim transfers a substantial amount of money to the con artist, they are less likely to pull out. This phenomenon is known as the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0749597885900494">“sunk cost fallacy”</a>. Research has shown people are likely to carry on investing money, time and effort in activities they have already invested in and ignore signs the endeavour isn’t in their best interests.</p> <p>When the victim runs out of money or tries to withdraw funds, they are blocked.</p> <p>The victim is left with not only financial devastation, but also the loss of what they may imagine to be their most intimate partnership. They are often <a href="https://cloud-platform-e218f50a4812967ba1215eaecede923f.s3.amazonaws.com/uploads/sites/6/2021/12/VC-Who-Suffers-Fraud-Report-1.pdf">too embarrassed to discuss the experience</a> with friends and family or to report to the police.</p> <h2>PayPal scams</h2> <p>Fake payment requests are a common attack that works by volume rather than playing the long game. Payment requests appear to come from a genuine PayPal address. Fraudulent messages typically begin with a generic greeting, an urgent request and a fake link.</p> <p>For example, Dear User: You’ve received a payment, or you have paid too much. Please click link below for details. Users are directed to a spoofed website with a legitimate sounding name such as www.paypal.com/SpecialOffers and asked to enter their account information and password.</p> <p>Both of us have received these scam requests – and even we found them difficult to discern from legitimate PayPal request emails. These scams work through mimicry and play on the human tendency to trust authority. Legitimate PayPal correspondence is usually automatic bot language, so it is not difficult to imitate.</p> <p>But remember, genuine messages from PayPal <a href="https://www.paypal.com/ca/for-you/account/security/fraud-dangers#:%7E:text=Any%20email%20from%20PayPal%20will,bank%20account%2C%20or%20credit%20card.">will use your first and last name</a>.</p> <h2>The missing person scam</h2> <p>This seems to be a new scam that exploits a person’s kindness. In the past, charity scams involved posing as charitable organisation responding to a <a href="https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2019/charity.html">recent, real calamity</a>.</p> <p>The new missing person scam is more sophisticated. The initial plea is a <a href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/tech/20875699/facebook-fake-missing-child-scam-warning/">fake missing person post</a> that generates likes and shares, increasing its credibility and exposure. Then the fraudster edits the content to create an investment scheme which now has the veneer of legitimacy.</p> <p>This scam may work because the initial consumers are unaware that the content is fraudulent, and there is no obvious request. In psychology, this type of persuasion is known as “<a href="https://thedecisionlab.com/reference-guide/psychology/social-proof">social proof</a>” – the tendency of individuals to follow and copy behaviour of others.</p> <h2>Fake app alerts</h2> <p>People post mobile apps, designed to steal users’ personal information, on the Google Play or Apple app store.</p> <p>The app often has a <a href="https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/crime/another-person-comes-forward-after-banking-app-scam-3584340">legitimate function</a>, which gives it a cover. Consumers unknowingly jeopardise their private information by downloading these apps which use malware to access additional information.</p> <p>Although there has been <a href="https://tech.co/news/fake-android-apps-delete">media coverage of Android security issues</a>, many users assume malware <a href="https://www.ben-evans.com/benedictevans/2020/8/18/app-stores">cannot bypass app store screening</a>. Again, this scam plays on people’s <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2F0021-9010.92.3.639">trust in authority figures</a> to keep tjem safe.</p> <p>Discuss any investment opportunities with friends, family members or professionals. It’s much easier said than done, but exercising caution one of the best strategies to reduce the chance of becoming a fraud victim.</p> <p>Scammers count on people paying little to no attention to their emails or messages before clicking on them or providing valuable information. When it comes to scams, the devil is in the missing details.<!-- 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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/207759/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: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/stacey-wood-473147">Stacey Wood</a>, Professor of Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/scripps-college-2153">Scripps College</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/yaniv-hanoch-1341108">Yaniv Hanoch</a>, Professor in Decision Science, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-southampton-1093">University of Southampton</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-scammers-use-psychology-to-create-some-of-the-most-convincing-internet-cons-and-what-to-watch-out-for-207759">original article</a>.</em></p>

Technology

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We make thousands of unconscious decisions every day. Here’s how your brain copes with that

<p>Do you remember learning to drive a car? You probably fumbled around for the controls, checked every mirror multiple times, made sure your foot was on the brake pedal, then ever-so-slowly rolled your car forward.</p> <p>Fast forward to now and you’re probably driving places and thinking, “how did I even get here? I don’t remember the drive”. The task of driving, which used to take a lot of mental energy and concentration, has now become subconscious, automatic – habitual.</p> <p>But how – and why – do you go from concentrating on a task to making it automatic?</p> <p><strong>Habits are there to help us cope</strong></p> <p>We live in a vibrant, complex and transient world where we constantly face a barrage of information competing for our attention. For example, our eyes take in <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1564115/">over one megabyte of data every second</a>. That’s equivalent to reading 500 pages of information or an entire encyclopedia every minute.</p> <p>Just one whiff of a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12744840/">familiar smell</a> can trigger a memory from childhood in less than a millisecond, and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2009.08.004">our skin</a> contains up to 4 million receptors that provide us with important information about temperature, pressure, texture, and pain.</p> <p>And if that wasn’t enough data to process, <a href="https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/REPS-10-2018-011/full/html">we make thousands of decisions</a> every single day. Many of them are unconscious and/or minor, such as putting seasoning on your food, picking a pair of shoes to wear, choosing which street to walk down, and so on.</p> <p>Some people are neurodiverse, and the ways we sense and process the world differ. But generally speaking, because we simply cannot process <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1364661305001178">all the incoming data</a>, our brains create habits – automations of the behaviours and actions we often repeat.</p> <p><strong>Two brain systems</strong></p> <p>There are two forces that govern our behaviour: intention and habit. In simple terms, our brain has <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17437199.2016.1244647">dual processing systems</a>, sort of like a computer with two processors.</p> <p>Performing a behaviour for the first time requires intention, attention and planning – even if plans are made only moments before the action is performed.</p> <p>This happens in our prefrontal cortex. More than any other part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex is responsible for making deliberate and logical decisions. It’s the key to reasoning, problem-solving, comprehension, impulse control and perseverance. It affects behaviour via <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/abs/handbook-of-behavior-change/changing-behavior-using-the-reflectiveimpulsive-model/A35DBA6BF0E784F491E936F2BE910FF7">goal-driven decisions</a>.</p> <p>For example, you use your “reflective” system (intention) to make yourself go to bed on time because sleep is important, or to move your body because you’ll feel great afterwards. When you are learning a new skill or acquiring new knowledge, you will draw heavily on the reflective brain system to form new memory connections in the brain. This system requires mental energy and effort. </p> <p><strong>From impulse to habit</strong></p> <p>On the other hand, your “impulsive” (habit) system is in your brain’s <a href="https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/10.1146/annurev.neuro.29.051605.112851">basal ganglia</a>, which plays a key role in the development of emotions, memories, and pattern recognition. It’s impetuous, spontaneous, and pleasure seeking.</p> <p>For example, your impulsive system might influence you to pick up greasy takeaway on the way home from a hard day at work, even though there’s a home-cooked meal waiting for you. Or it might prompt you to spontaneously buy a new, expensive television. This system requires no energy or cognitive effort as it operates reflexively, subconsciously and automatically.</p> <p>When we repeat a behaviour in a consistent context, our brain recognises the patterns and moves the control of that behaviour from intention to habit. A habit occurs when your impulse towards doing something is automatically initiated because you encounter a setting in which you’ve done the same thing <a href="https://bmcpsychology.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40359-015-0065-4">in the past</a>. For example, getting your favourite takeaway because you walk past the food joint on the way home from work every night – and it’s delicious every time, giving you a pleasurable reward.</p> <p><strong>Shortcuts of the mind</strong></p> <p>Because habits sit in the impulsive part of our brain, they <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2019.03.978">don’t require much cognitive input or mental energy</a> to be performed.</p> <p>In other words, habits are the mind’s shortcuts, allowing us to successfully engage in our daily life while reserving our reasoning and executive functioning capacities for other thoughts and actions.</p> <p>Your brain remembers how to drive a car because it’s something you’ve done many times before. Forming habits is, therefore, a natural process that contributes to <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2F0033-2909.124.1.54">energy preservation</a>.</p> <p>That way, your brain doesn’t have to consciously think about your every move and is free to consider other things – like what to make for dinner, or where to go on your next holiday.</p> <p><em>Image credit: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/we-make-thousands-of-unconscious-decisions-every-day-heres-how-your-brain-copes-with-that-201379" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>

Mind

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Why do musicians like Elton John find retirement so tough? A music psychology expert explains

<p>With his <a href="https://www.eltonjohn.com/stories/farewell-yellow-brick-road">Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour</a>, Elton John confirmed his latest plans for retirement. The final show of the tour in July 2023 will be his last. However, deja vu suggests this might not be the last we see of Elton.</p> <p>The singer has announced plans to retire <a href="https://www.musictimes.com/articles/8902/20140817/elton-john-career-false-retirements-brief-chronological-look.htm">at least five times</a> since 1984 but is still going strong. By the end of his current tour, Elton John will have performed in over 300 concerts in the UK, the US and Europe and he shows no sign of slowing down. He’ll perform a <a href="https://www.billboard.com/music/pop/elton-john-final-uk-show-glastonbury-festival-1235180982/">headline slot at Glastonbury</a> in 2023.</p> <p>Elton is not the only performer with a history of retiring and unretiring. He is in good company with <a href="https://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/story?id=113477&amp;page=1">Barbra Streisand</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/justinbieber/status/415683404462436352?lang=en">Justin Bieber</a>, <a href="https://www.revolt.tv/article/2022-07-14/180311/jay-z-explains-2003-retirement-i-thought-i-was-burned-out/">Jay-Z</a>, <a href="https://www.nme.com/news/music/lily-allen-hints-she-may-not-retire-just-yet-after-olivia-rodrigo-glastonbury-performance-3258600">Lily Allen</a> and <a href="https://ultimateclassicrock.com/phil-collins-retired/">Phil Collins</a>. </p> <p>Hip-hop star <a href="https://www.upi.com/Entertainment_News/2022/02/04/Nicki-Minaj-returns-music-new-single-Do-We-Have-Problem/9811643982091/">Nicki Minaj’s</a> retirement lasted for only 22 days, while heavy metal singer <a href="https://ultimateclassicrock.com/ozzy-osbourne-retirement-1992/">Ozzy Osbourne’s</a> valedictory No More Tours tour in 1992 preceded a further 30 years of performance.</p> <p>In contrast with handsomely rewarded performances on the global stage, retirement can be an intermittent pipe dream for many musicians. Long, unsociable hours in the music industry often offer modest remuneration and few of the perks available in other sectors. </p> <p>There is <a href="https://www.gov.uk/working-retirement-pension-age">no compulsory retirement age</a> in the UK, which can be a godsend for lower paid professional performers who find that saving for an adequate pension is beyond their means. In these cases, working <a href="https://theconversation.com/ageing-activism-why-we-need-to-give-voice-to-the-new-third-age-50305">beyond the third age</a> is a necessity.</p> <p>For Elton and his internationally acclaimed peers, however, the incentive to return to performing is less likely to be financial. So why do some successful musicians find it so hard to stick to retirement?</p> <h2>The motivation of the stage</h2> <p>The key to understanding this lies in motivation. </p> <p>For many musicians, the motivation to perform is intrinsic rather than extrinsic. Extrinsically motivated performers are interested in tangible rewards such as money. <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0305735617721637">Intrinsic motivation</a> meanwhile, is present when a musician performs mainly because of a strong inner desire to make music.</p> <p>For intrinsically motivated performers, making music is inherently pleasurable and a means unto itself. This partly explains why the music profession remains attractive even if it does not always bring the financial security of other careers. It also explains why some celebrated performers find it difficult to stay out of the public arena.</p> <p>Among those with a passion for music, the rewards of performance often exceed the financial benefits. The status and accolades derived from a celebrated performance career provide a source of affirmation which can become difficult to obtain elsewhere. </p> <p>Once human beings have fulfilled their basic needs of food, water, shelter and relationships, <a href="http://eznow7jgmenpjz.pic3.eznetonline.com/upload/MASLOW_YQfG.pdf">self-actualisation</a> becomes a significant driving force. For dedicated performers, achievement in the musical sphere can become an irreplaceable vehicle for attaining self esteem, personal growth and the satisfaction of fulfilling their potential.</p> <h2>You’re only as good as your last performance</h2> <p>Identity is also a central component in the motivation to perform. Continuing to perform professionally <a href="https://westminsterresearch.westminster.ac.uk/download/fbc3b0a7fd80bcb648344f9d298414ece784f56ff9018d267fd77a7fce70a980/519636/Gross%20%26%20Musgrave%20%282017%29%20Can%20Muic%20Make%20You%20Sick%20Pt2.pdf">can provide validation</a> for musicians, regardless of the level of income and recognition.</p> <p>For many, being a musician is inextricably linked with their sense of self. Their self worth is then strongly affected by their capacity to perform. This is especially true for singers, as voice is an integral part of <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Jane-Oakland/publication/258173213_Re-defining_'Me'_Exploring_career_transition_and_the_experience_of_loss_in_the_context_of_redundancy_for_professional_opera_choristers/links/00b7d52d6675946763000000/Re-defining-Me-Exploring-career-transition-and-the-experience-of-loss-in-the-context-of-redundancy-for-professional-opera-choristers.pdf">identity formation and expression</a>.</p> <p>There is some truth in the old saying; “You’re only as good as your last performance.” If you’re not performing at all, how good can you be? </p> <p>For retired musicians, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Jane-Oakland/publication/280067238_AGEING_AND_RETIREMENT_TOWARDS_AN_UNDERSTANDING_OF_THE_EXPERIENCES_OF_SYMPHONY_MUSICIANS_AS_THEY_APPROACH_RETIREMENT/links/55a640e008aee8aaa765644b/AGEING-AND-RETIREMENT-TOWARDS-AN-UNDERSTANDING-OF-THE-EXPERIENCES-OF-SYMPHONY-MUSICIANS-AS-THEY-APPROACH-RETIREMENT.pdf">it can be challenging</a> to find a comparable way to channel the energy they once dedicated to performance.</p> <p>Musicians, like other professional groups, are diverse in many ways, but there are some personality traits different types of musicians tend to share. </p> <p>For example, classical musicians typically score highly on introversion, which partly accounts for <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/03057356810090010201">their ability to focus</a> on the solitary practice necessary for developing technique before engaging in ensemble playing.</p> <p>In contrast, rock and pop musicians tend to <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/epdf/10.1177/0305735694222006">score highly</a> on extroversion, often learning and rehearsing more informally in collaboration with their peers. Extroverted performers often derive their energy from audience interaction so it can be difficult to achieve that “buzz” once the music stops.</p> <h2>Don’t stop me now</h2> <p>Performing music is <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00906/full">widely recognised</a> as a way of achieving the highly desired state of “flow”, otherwise known as “peak performance” or being “in the zone”.</p> <p>Providing that the challenge of performing closely matches the skill level of the performer, <a href="https://nuovoeutile.it/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/2002-Flow.pdf">music can become an all-absorbing activity</a>, which is so immersive that it distorts our sense of time and distracts us from our everyday concerns. During live concerts, the audience and performers can experience a sense of <a href="https://sociologicalscience.com/download/vol-6/january/SocSci_v6_27to42.pdf">“collective effervescence”</a> rarely achieved elsewhere.</p> <p>Add in the emotional high derived from the adrenaline released in public performance and we can begin to understand why the rewards of performance can be difficult to replace in retirement.</p> <p>Rihanna’s <em><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yd8jh9QYfEs">Don’t Stop the Music</a></em>, Queen’s <em><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgzGwKwLmgM">Don’t Stop Me Now</a></em> and Elton’s <em><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHwVBirqD2s">I’m Still Standing</a></em> are these musicians ways of telling us that they want to be in the limelight, just as much as their audiences want them to stay there.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-do-musicians-like-elton-john-find-retirement-so-tough-a-music-psychology-expert-explains-197362" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>

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13 things psychologists wish you knew about happiness

<h2>Listen to melancholy music</h2> <p>You heard that right! You officially have another excuse to listen to Adele on repeat (as if you even needed one anyway). Studies suggest that blasting some depressing and sappy tunes can actually help boost positive and peaceful feelings, which can be therapeutic, cathartic, and calming.</p> <h2>Actually speak to the person next to you on the train or bus</h2> <p>People are happier during their commutes when they chat up their seat neighbour, even if they think it will make the trip less positive and productive, according to a study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Try to get over your fear of speaking to strangers or worrying that you’re bothering them – you could bring some joy to both of you! “The biggest source of misery in the workplace is actually getting there and back,” says Dr Art Markman, PhD, author of Brain Briefs. “People are generally unhappy when forces outside their control are affecting their lives.” Obviously, you can’t control other drivers or the schedule of public transportation, so it helps to find aspects of your commute that you can control. “Get in conversations with random strangers on the train or bus,” says Dr Markman. “The more you take control of the situation, the happier you’ll be.”</p> <h2>Know that money sometimes can buy happiness</h2> <p>“They say money can’t buy happiness,” says Dr Nancy Etcoff, PhD, an assistant clinical professor at Harvard Medical School. “But it can if what you buy is extra time, or pay to delegate tasks.” So don’t feel guilty ordering in Chinese food or hiring a house cleaner. A study found that people who spend money to save time tend to be happier than those who don’t. Yes, it might be overkill to order takeout for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, or to have someone clean your home more than once a week. But consider sending out your dry cleaning this week to save you the time of ironing yet another shirt.</p> <h2>Call your mum </h2> <p>When was the last time you picked up your smartphone to actually make a call? Research has found that hearing your mum’s voice can help reduce stress, which means a happier you. Talking on the phone was found to reduce a key stress hormone and release the feel-good brain chemical oxytocin that is thought to play a key role in forming bonds. It goes without saying that you’ll also make Mum’s day.</p> <h2>Hang out with happy people</h2> <p>Yawns aren’t the only things that are contagious. Research has found that the more you surround yourself with positive people, the happier you’ll feel. Go ahead and enjoy a round of drinks with your girl squad, grab coffee with that woman at school pickup who’s always smiling, or schedule a visit with your cheery hairdresser.</p> <h2>Daydream about your upcoming holiday</h2> <p>Do you yearn to be lying on the beach, exploring the mountains, trekking in the jungle, or touring a museum – right this minute? Believe it or not, getting out of town won’t necessarily make you happier, a study found. But thinking about going out of town is another story. The fact is that we get an extra boost of joy if we delay pleasure. We build positive expectations, imagining how amazing the experience will be. That warm sun or the frozen strawberry daiquiri by the pool? It’s just an added bonus.</p> <h2>Speak to the person behind you in the supermarket</h2> <p>Research has found that making friends – not just online – boosts our spirits. “Face-to-face, human interactions are the elixir for nearly everything that ails us,” says Dr Kit Yarrow, PhD, a consumer psychologist, professor, author, consultant, and speaker. “Though every interaction may not create happiness, in the long run, [it’s] the sense of community that’s created will.” Say hello to the mum next to you on the sideline at the soccer game. Chat up your new co-worker in the lunchroom. You never know who you’ll meet and what kind of connections you’ll make.</p> <h2>Dust off your yearbook</h2> <p>It’s time to reminisce about fond memories from the past, so dig up your wedding album or high school yearbook, and then call or email your high school or childhood besties. Research published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin has found that feeling nostalgic about the past will increase optimism about the future and make you happier.</p> <h2>Hang out with man’s best friend</h2> <p>Power to the pets! Studies show that playing fetch with your dog or cuddling up with your cat does the body good. Interacting with pets has been found to release oxytocin, and you’ll be left with a joyous feeling.</p> <h2>Be a little selfish</h2> <p>“Being selfish is sometimes the best thing for yourself and others,” says Antonia Hall, MA, a psychologist, relationship expert, and author of The Ultimate Guide to a Multi-Orgasmic Life. Self-care may cause disappointment to others, like when you decline an invitation or cancel plans, Hall says. “But your wellbeing is more important.” If you’re unhappy, it won’t be a positive experience for either of you anyway, she says.</p> <p><em>Image credit: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/healthsmart/conditions/mental-health/13-things-psychologists-wish-you-knew-about-happiness" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>. </em></p>

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Spending too much money? Tempted by sales? These ways to ‘hack’ your psychology can help

<p>It’s late November, which means the holiday sales period has well and truly begun. If you haven’t already seen your spending go up, the possibility is looming.</p> <p>And you probably have some concerns about spending your money wisely. Furthermore, shopping can be a harrowing experience, and our attitudes towards money are tied up in all kinds of feelings.</p> <p>Based on psychology, here are three tips to improve the way you spend your hard-earned cash this holiday season.</p> <p><strong>Before the purchase – patience is your friend</strong></p> <p>One of the amazing features of the human mind is that we can mentally time travel: we can imagine what the future is going to <em>feel</em> like. Scientists call this “<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/S0065-2601(03)01006-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener">affective forecasting</a>”.</p> <p>Thinking about a future trip – imagining the warm sun, the sand between your toes, finding yourself smiling – is an example of such mental time travel.</p> <p>However, it turns out <a href="https://www.bauer.uh.edu/vpatrick/docs/Looking%20Through%20the%20Crystal%20Ball.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">we’re not very good at affective forecasting</a>. We get wrong not only the emotions we will experience, but also their intensity and duration. Lottery winners are a classic example – contrary to expectations, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1037//0022-3514.36.8.917" target="_blank" rel="noopener">many are not happy</a>, or not happy for long.</p> <p>More importantly, you can derive happiness from just <em>anticipating</em> future experiences. For example, one study measured the happiness of 974 people going on a trip compared with 556 people not going on a trip. As you might expect, the vacationers were relatively happier – <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007%2Fs11482-009-9091-9" target="_blank" rel="noopener">but only before the trip</a>.</p> <p>So, how can we take advantage of our capacity to mentally time travel?</p> <p><strong>Tip #1: Pay now, consume later.</strong> These days, fuelled by the rise of “buy now, pay later” options, we get to consume what we want immediately. However, this instant gratification deprives us of a key source of happiness: anticipation. A better strategy is to commit to buy something and then wait a little before actually consuming it.</p> <p><strong>At the point of purchase – notice you’re paying</strong></p> <p>An inevitability of every purchase is spending money. This represents a cost, both in terms of the monetary value but also the opportunity to buy other things.</p> <p>Costs are a form of loss, and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.39.4.341" target="_blank" rel="noopener">we don’t like losing things</a>. For that reason, it psychologically hurts to spend money. Scientists call this the “<a href="https://doi.org/10.1287/mksc.17.1.4" target="_blank" rel="noopener">pain of paying</a>”.</p> <p>According to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8721.00151" target="_blank" rel="noopener">one theory of shopping</a>, we decide to buy after making a mental calculation: is the anticipated pleasure of consuming higher than the anticipated pain of buying?</p> <p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1016%2Fj.neuron.2006.11.010" target="_blank" rel="noopener">This calculus</a> is even represented in the brain. For example, <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2901808" target="_blank" rel="noopener">one study</a> looking at people’s brains with fMRI while they purchased food found neural activity in areas linked to higher-order, affective pain processing, which correlated with how high the price was.</p> <p>How did you pay for your last meal? Did you have to dig into your wallet or purse trying to extract the appropriate combination of notes and coins? Maybe you simply pulled out a plastic card and swiped it on the reader? Or perhaps you absentmindedly touched your smartphone to the machine.</p> <figure class="align-center "><em><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/496420/original/file-20221121-14-8dpx7o.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/496420/original/file-20221121-14-8dpx7o.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=400&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/496420/original/file-20221121-14-8dpx7o.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=400&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/496420/original/file-20221121-14-8dpx7o.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=400&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/496420/original/file-20221121-14-8dpx7o.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/496420/original/file-20221121-14-8dpx7o.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/496420/original/file-20221121-14-8dpx7o.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="A person holding up their smartphone to a contactless payment system" /></em><figcaption><em><span class="caption">‘Tapping’ with your phone greatly reduces the pain of paying.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="source" href="https://unsplash.com/photos/k24rOBJ2D_0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">naipo.de/Unsplash</a></span></em></figcaption></figure> <p>It turns out your method of payment changes how much pain you feel. In <a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/jcr/ucv056" target="_blank" rel="noopener">one study</a>, researchers asked some university employees if they would like to buy a mug at a discounted price. Half were only allowed to pay in cash, whereas the other half had to use a debit or credit card.</p> <p>Those who paid in cash self-reported more pain of paying. So, how can you use this to your advantage?</p> <p><strong>Tip #2: Ramp up the pain.</strong> If you’re worried about overspending this holiday period, ramp up the pain of paying. You can do this by using cash or receiving a notification each time money leaves your account.</p> <p><strong>After the purchase – stop chasing rainbows</strong></p> <p>A fundamental feature of human beings is that we are adaptive – we easily get used to the new normal. This applies to our purchases, too. Scientists call it “<a href="https://www.cmu.edu/dietrich/sds/docs/loewenstein/HedonicAdaptation.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">hedonic adaptation</a>”: over time, consumption of the same thing brings decreasing happiness.</p> <p>Remember the day you got your smartphone? You may have felt joy as you caressed the smooth aluminium back and watched light glint off the unblemished glass. Now look at your phone. What happened to the joy?</p> <p>It’s normal to experience hedonic adaptation. However, one problem is that we don’t anticipate it.</p> <p>Remember affective forecasting? Since <a href="https://doi.org/10.2307/3150499" target="_blank" rel="noopener">satisfaction is a function of expectations relative to performance</a>, when we fail to adjust our expectations in light of the inevitable hedonic adaptation, we end up dissatisfied.</p> <p>The second problem with hedonic adaptation is that the obvious solution appears to be buying something new. Maybe you need a new smartphone to replace your slightly scratched-up old one? If this is your thinking, you’ve just hopped onto the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.61.4.305" target="_blank" rel="noopener">hedonic treadmill</a>.</p> <p>Now the only way to maintain your happiness is to spend more and more money to get better and better versions of everything. So, how can you get off this treadmill?</p> <p><strong>Tip #3: Buy experiences, not things</strong>. It turns out <a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/jcr/ucaa047" target="_blank" rel="noopener">people end up happier when they buy experiences rather than things</a>. For example, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s12232-010-0093-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a study</a> that tracked how older adults spent their money found that only one category of spending was related to happiness: leisure purchases, such as going on trips, seeing a movie at the cinema, and cheering at sporting events.</p> <p>One reason for this is that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/597049" target="_blank" rel="noopener">we adapt to purchases of experiences more slowly</a> than purchases of material things.</p> <p>So, the next time you’re tossing up between buying tickets to a festival or getting the latest gadget, pick up your scratched-up smartphone and pre-purchase some festival tickets for you and your friends.<!-- 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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/194821/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: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em>Writen by Adrian R. Camilleri. Republished with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/spending-too-much-money-tempted-by-sales-these-ways-to-hack-your-psychology-can-help-194821" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

Money & Banking

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Why do I remember embarrassing things I’ve said or done in the past and feel ashamed all over again?

<p>We’ve all done it – you’re walking around going about your business and suddenly you’re thinking about that time in high school you said something really stupid you would never say now.</p> <p>Or that time a few years ago when you made a social gaffe.</p> <p>You cringe and just want to die of shame.</p> <p>Why do these negative memories seem to just pop into our heads? And why do we feel so embarrassed still, when the occasion is long past?</p> <p><strong>How do memories come into our awareness?</strong></p> <p>The current thinking is there are two ways in which we recall experiences from our past. One way is purposeful and voluntary. For example, if you try to remember what you did at work yesterday, or what you had for lunch last Saturday. This involves a deliberate and effortful process during which we search for the memory in our minds.</p> <p>The second way is <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0963721410370301" target="_blank" rel="noopener">unintended and spontaneous</a>. These are memories that just seem to “pop” into our minds and can even be unwanted or intrusive. So, where does this second type of memory come from?</p> <p>Part of the answer lays in how memories are connected to each other. The current understanding is our past experiences are represented in <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364661318300652?casa_token=SSFCzEsOjMkAAAAA:dYMJ2aVZpSCs9JCD9-iXsTMMnkyqnNtlcOoxA3lLzs8sNRrA8SXqb5LYamz25ZcMrsYxLoftp3A" target="_blank" rel="noopener">connected networks of cells</a> that reside in our brain, called neurons.</p> <p>These neurons grow physical connections with each other through the overlapping information in these representations. For example, memories might share a type of context (different beaches you’ve been to, restaurants you’ve eaten at), occur at similar periods of life (childhood, high school years), or have emotional and thematic overlap (times we have loved or argued with others).</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/493440/original/file-20221104-13-ha3lz8.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/493440/original/file-20221104-13-ha3lz8.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/493440/original/file-20221104-13-ha3lz8.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=401&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/493440/original/file-20221104-13-ha3lz8.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=401&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/493440/original/file-20221104-13-ha3lz8.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=401&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/493440/original/file-20221104-13-ha3lz8.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/493440/original/file-20221104-13-ha3lz8.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/493440/original/file-20221104-13-ha3lz8.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="A bakery window" /></a><figcaption><em><span class="caption">Memories can be triggered by internal stimuli (thoughts, feelings) or external stimuli (something we see, hear, smell).</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Yeh Xintong/Unsplash</span>, <a class="license" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">CC BY</a></span></em></figcaption></figure> <p>An initial activation of a memory could be triggered by an external stimuli from the environment (sights, sounds, tastes, smells) or internal stimuli (thoughts, feelings, physical sensations). Once neurons containing these memories are activated, associated memories are then <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.3758/s13423-020-01792-x" target="_blank" rel="noopener">more likely to be recalled into conscious awareness</a>.</p> <p>An example might be walking past a bakery, smelling fresh bread, and having a spontaneous thought of last weekend when you cooked a meal for a friend. This might then lead to a memory of when toast was burned and there was smoke in the house. Not all activation will lead to a conscious memory, and at times the associations between memories might not be entirely clear to us.</p> <p><strong>Why do memories make us feel?</strong></p> <p>When memories come to mind, we often experience <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/(SICI)1099-0720(199610)10:5%3C435::AID-ACP408%3E3.0.CO;2-L" target="_blank" rel="noopener">emotional responses to them</a>. In fact, involuntary memories tend to be <a href="https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rstb.2019.0693" target="_blank" rel="noopener">more negative than voluntary memories</a>. Negative memories also tend to have a <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1037/1089-2680.5.4.323" target="_blank" rel="noopener">stronger emotional tone</a> than positive memories.</p> <p>Humans are more motivated to avoid bad outcomes, bad situations, and bad definitions of ourselves than to seek out good ones. This is likely due to the pressing need for survival in the world: physically, mentally, and socially.</p> <p>So involuntary memories can make us feel acutely sad, anxious, and even ashamed of ourselves. For example, a memory involving embarrassment or shame might indicate to us we have done something others might find to be distasteful or negative, or in some way we have violated social norms.</p> <p>These emotions are important for us to feel, and we learn from our memories and these emotional responses to manage future situations differently.</p> <p><strong>Does this happen to some people more than others?</strong></p> <p>This is all well and good, and mostly we’re able to remember our past and experience the emotions without too much distress. But it may happen for some people more than others, and with stronger emotions attached.</p> <p>One clue as to why comes from research on <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2023-06108-001" target="_blank" rel="noopener">mood-congruent memory</a>. This is the tendency to be more likely to recall memories which are consistent with our <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/(SICI)1099-0720(199610)10:5%3C435::AID-ACP408%3E3.0.CO;2-L" target="_blank" rel="noopener">current mood</a>.</p> <figure class="align-right zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/493442/original/file-20221104-13-e9jr5g.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/493442/original/file-20221104-13-e9jr5g.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=237&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/493442/original/file-20221104-13-e9jr5g.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=900&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/493442/original/file-20221104-13-e9jr5g.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=900&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/493442/original/file-20221104-13-e9jr5g.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=900&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/493442/original/file-20221104-13-e9jr5g.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=1131&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/493442/original/file-20221104-13-e9jr5g.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=1131&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/493442/original/file-20221104-13-e9jr5g.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=1131&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="Man at desk thinking" /></a><figcaption><em><span class="caption">Ruminating is often unhelpful.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">pexels/olia danilevich</span>, <a class="license" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">CC BY</a></span></em></figcaption></figure> <p>So, if you’re feeling sad, well, you’re more likely to recall memories related to disappointments, loss or shame. Feeling anxious or bad about yourself? You’re more likely to recall times when you felt scared or unsure.</p> <p>In some mental health disorders, such as <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272735817303914?casa_token=k0OOX1ybROYAAAAA:UXy5KQk-_8h37dwSCDJqkoFebDn3b5atTodeeF0eYGeHjgtimUUcznPX9_Sxmq-5QsYx5gcUFQ" target="_blank" rel="noopener">major depression</a>, people more often recall memories that evoke negative feelings, the negative feelings are relatively stronger, and these feelings of shame or sadness are perceived as facts about themselves. That is, feelings become facts.</p> <p>Another thing that is more likely in some mental health disorders is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0005796720300243?casa_token=eaQkokETnM8AAAAA:WjFF1oStuF9VUm7KWdP1zwd7CluYm9M5YZKTotYEV8v0ijZDJ2eDSLdv_Di6kICGw7h59kmW4y4" target="_blank" rel="noopener">rumination</a>. When we ruminate, we repetitively think about negative past experiences and how we feel or felt about them.</p> <p>On the surface, the function of rumination is to try and “work out” what happened and learn something or problem-solve so these experiences do not happen again. While this is good idea in theory, when we ruminate we become stuck in the past and re-experience negative emotions <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0005796720300243?casa_token=eaQkokETnM8AAAAA:WjFF1oStuF9VUm7KWdP1zwd7CluYm9M5YZKTotYEV8v0ijZDJ2eDSLdv_Di6kICGw7h59kmW4y4" target="_blank" rel="noopener">without much benefit</a>.</p> <p>Not only that, but it means those memories in our neural networks become more strongly connected with other information, and are even more likely to then be <a href="https://www.pnas.org/doi/abs/10.1073/pnas.1800006115" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recalled involuntarily</a>.</p> <p><strong>Can we stop the negative feelings?</strong></p> <p>The good news is memories are very adaptable. When we recall a memory we can elaborate on it and change our thoughts, feelings, and appraisals of past experiences.</p> <p>In a process referred to as “<a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/buy/2018-24701-001" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reconsolidation</a>”, changes can be made so the next time that memory is recalled it is different to what it once was and has a changed emotional tone.</p> <p>For example, we might remember a time when we felt anxious about a test or a job interview that didn’t go so well and feel sad or ashamed. Reflecting, elaborating and reframing that memory might involve remembering some aspects of it that did go well, integrating it with the idea that you stepped up to a challenge even though it was hard, and reminding yourself it’s okay to feel anxious or disappointed about difficult things and it does not make us a failure or a bad person.</p> <p>Through this process of rewriting experiences in a way that is reasonable and self-compassionate, their prominence in our life and self-concept can be reduced, and <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13607863.2011.651434" target="_blank" rel="noopener">our well-being can improve</a>.</p> <p>As for rumination, <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272735813001207?casa_token=arG_36s8na4AAAAA:Wrlcppj451P7mZlxg44UyooaM25GpoEwTFtx5gfHFc-k2M2cWCXXO75JYC9P7DnMKF7vw7SlcA" target="_blank" rel="noopener">one evidenced-based strategy</a> is to recognise when it is happening and try to shift attention onto something absorbing and sensorial (for example doing something with your hands or focusing on sights or sounds). This attention shifting can short circuit rumination and get you doing something more valued.</p> <p>Overall, remember that even though our brain will give us little reminders of our experiences, we don’t have to be stuck in the past.<!-- 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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/190535/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: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em>Writen by David John Hallford. Republished with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-do-i-remember-embarrassing-things-ive-said-or-done-in-the-past-and-feel-ashamed-all-over-again-190535" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

Mind

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6 signs of commitment issues, from 4 psychology experts

<h2>Do you know someone with a fear of commitment?</h2> <p>Commitment may be the most critical component of successful long-term relationships. After all, says Lawrence Josephs, PhD, a professor at the Derner School of Psychology at Adelphi University, New York: The more committed you are, the more stable, successful relationship you’ll have.</p> <p>Commitment is a decision, Dr Josephs says. It moves you and your partner beyond the initial chemistry that propelled you into the relationship in the first place to stay bonded after the initial period of bliss diffuses.</p> <p>John Lydon, PhD, a professor of psychology at McGill University in Montreal, explains: “Commitment is the general motivation to maintain one’s relationship.”</p> <p>Know somebody who seems like they could be lacking that motivation? Here are some tell-tell ways to recognise a fear of commitment – even in yourself.</p> <h2>Why does someone fear commitment?</h2> <p>Jessy Levin, PhD, a psychologist, says the reasons an individual is averse to commitment can vary, and some commitment-avoidant people may have more than just one of these reasons. Dr Levin adds that some people just don’t want to be in a long-term monogamous relationship ever.</p> <p>But how come? Well, says Dr Josephs, some people fear commitment because it implies responsibilities. Those may be financial: Maybe they’re not so keen on the idea of paying for two at dinner, the thought of buying gifts for holidays or birthdays, or they’re not interested in the thought of one day raising children (which typically demands financial stability and investment). Maybe they just loathe the idea of having to be somewhere on time for plans you’ve made.</p> <p>Other times, it may be a question of becoming more mature; more willing to shift one’s time and focus away from solely their own interests.</p> <p>You may have also had a brush with a case when an individual’s unwillingness to commit has been rooted in their childhood. Early family dynamics and previous trauma can play a role, says Matt Cohen, PhD, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina. “We are driven by a such a rich tapestry of our own histories,” Dr Cohen observes. “So many things impact how we show up in a relationship.”</p> <h2>Inability to compromise</h2> <p>Relationships, especially long-term ones, require give and take. Your partner hates musicals. You counted down weeks to the premiere of tick, tick…BOOM! In a healthy, balanced relationship, they’d need to be willing to subject themselves, at least sometimes, to your interests that they don’t particularly share.</p> <p>But what signifies actual commitment phobia? “A commitment is a willingness to sacrifice for the team,” says Dr Josephs. “Pay attention to how your partner deals with not getting his or her own way.” Put simply: If someone is consistently unwilling to compromise, that’s a sign they might not be prime long-term partner material.</p> <p>In that case, you might be called to decide: Is an inability to compromise one of your relationship deal breakers?</p> <h2>Being self-centred</h2> <p>Dr Josephs says being overly self-focused goes hand-in-hand with an unwillingness to compromise. “People who are high in narcissism have problems with commitment,” says Dr Josephs. “They’re more likely to feel that the grass is greener in other places. They put their own needs ahead of others.”</p> <p>Ever known anybody like that? It’s possible identity was also part of the issue. Dr Lydon explains: “When people define themselves in terms of their relationship, they are motivated to think and behave in ways that help sustain the relationship.” If you’d prefer a commitment, a suitable partner is likely someone who doesn’t just show the occasional behaviour that they care – instead, their love for you is a practice; a way of being for them every day. You’re an intrinsic part of their world, of their days – something so obvious that you’d barely think to question it.</p> <h2>Angering easily</h2> <p>At times, anger can be productive and even healthy for the relationship if it’s expressed appropriately, as it tells others that it is important to listen to us. Keeping the lines of communication open is necessary to maintain intimacy.</p> <p>Still, it might be a sign of wavering commitment if a person’s concern with their own self-interests leads to anger or frustration whenever they don’t get their way. “Some people are hypersensitive to rejection and abandonment, and if they’re disappointed, might respond in an angry retaliatory way,” says Dr Josephs. Tolerating abusive or violent words or behaviour? That’s a no.</p> <h2>Problems dealing with adversity</h2> <p>Adversity is sometimes the “stress test” for commitment, says Dr Lydon. “A person may say they are committed because they are highly satisfied and everything is going wonderfully, but will they stick with it when life presents some challenges to the relationship?” says Dr Lydon.</p> <p>Committed people stick with you through the good times and the bad. In fact, some couples find their partner shines – and even grows more lovable – when times are tough, and they weather through together.</p> <h2>Prior history of troubled relationships</h2> <p>Relationship history can provide clues about a person’s ability to stay in a long-term relationship. This can include past family relationships, lovers, or even platonic friends.</p> <p>There is often an association between a history of trauma and difficulty with intimacy and commitment. However, because some people with traumatic pasts still experience stable personal relationships, this factor alone doesn’t indicate a lack of commitment, according to Dr Cohen.</p> <h2>Being distracted</h2> <p>A seemingly distracted partner could signal someone who is not committed, says Dr Levin. An example might be observing that they back off from physical and sexual contact, not making dates in advance, or being emotionally withdrawn. “If a person is going through the motions in a lacklustre way, that’s a pretty good clue that they haven’t come to a place where they’re committed,” says Dr Josephs.</p> <h2>What to do if your love interest seems non-committal</h2> <p>Don’t lose heart if all these signs point to the likelihood that you or your partner lacks a desire to commit. If you’re in a dating situation and this is the case, clarifying that you’re on two different pages may offer the opportunity to allow each other to pursue the life you each truly crave. “A relationship has to meet the needs of each person,” Dr Levin says.</p> <p>And if you’re the one who’s not big on coupling up but you’d like to work on allowing a loving partnership into your life, therapy can be a great place to start.</p> <h2>Can you make someone commit?</h2> <p>The ultimate question for many dating people: Can you get someone to commit? Dr Levin suggests that in some cases, it may be possible for two people to commit equally to the relationship, even if one hasn’t been fully onboard. He alludes that it takes a mutual willingness to wade gently together out of the non-committal partner’s comfort zone, but a heads-up: This requires each person to communicate their needs, and to support the other.</p> <p><strong>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/true-stories-lifestyle/relationships/6-signs-of-commitment-issues-from-4-psychology-experts" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>.</strong></p> <p><em>Image: Shutterstock</em></p>

Relationships

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Your home, office or uni affects your mood and how you think. How do we know? We looked into people’s brains

<p>Think of a time when you felt vulnerable. Perhaps you were in a hospital corridor, or an exam hall, about to be tested. Now, focus on the building you were in. What if, without you knowing, the design of that space was affecting you?</p> <p>We study <a href="https://psychology.org.au/community/advocacy-social-issues/environment-climate-change-psychology/psychologys-role-in-environmental-issues/what-is-environmental-psychology" target="_blank" rel="noopener">environmental psychology</a>, a growing field of research investigating the relationship between humans and the external world. This includes natural, and human-made environments, such as buildings.</p> <p>Researchers could just ask people what they feel when inside a building – how pleasant or unpleasant they feel, the intensity of that feeling, and how in control they feel.</p> <p>But we use neuroscience to see how the brain is stimulated when inside a building. The idea is for people to one day use that information to design better buildings – classrooms that help us concentrate, or hospital waiting rooms that reduce our anxiety.</p> <p><strong>Why study buildings this way?</strong></p> <p>We spend <a href="https://www.health.vic.gov.au/chief-health-officer/healthy-indoor-environments" target="_blank" rel="noopener">at least 80% of our lives</a> inside buildings. So it is critical we understand whether the buildings we occupy are affecting our brain and body.</p> <p>Buildings – hospitals, schools, offices, homes – are often complex. They can have various contents (fixtures, fittings and objects), levels of comfort (such as the light, sound, and air quality). Other people occupy the space.</p> <p>There are also a range of design characteristics we can notice inside a building. These include colour (wall paint, chair colour), texture (carpet tiles, timber gym floor), geometry (curved walls or straight, angular ones), and scale (proportions of height and width of a room).</p> <p><strong>What did we do?</strong></p> <p>We wanted to see what effect changing some of these characteristics had on the brain and body.</p> <p>So we asked participants to sit in the middle of a virtual-reality (VR) room for 20 minutes.</p> <p>We designed the room with a door (to show height) and chair (to show depth), keeping it empty of other cues that might influence people. We modelled the room using dimensions set by the local building code.</p> <p>Other studies have compared <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2019.101344" target="_blank" rel="noopener">complex environments</a>, which are more realistic to everyday life. But we chose to use a simple VR room so we could understand the impact of changing one characteristic at a time.</p> <p>To measure brain activity, we used a technique called electroencephalography. This is where we placed electrodes on the scalp to measure electrical activity as brain cells (neurons) send messages to each other.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><em><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/485808/original/file-20220921-13-7qqec9.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=1000&fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/485808/original/file-20220921-13-7qqec9.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/485808/original/file-20220921-13-7qqec9.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=600&h=429&fit=crop&dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/485808/original/file-20220921-13-7qqec9.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=600&h=429&fit=crop&dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/485808/original/file-20220921-13-7qqec9.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=600&h=429&fit=crop&dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/485808/original/file-20220921-13-7qqec9.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&h=539&fit=crop&dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/485808/original/file-20220921-13-7qqec9.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=754&h=539&fit=crop&dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/485808/original/file-20220921-13-7qqec9.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=754&h=539&fit=crop&dpr=3 2262w" alt="Fitting cap of electrodes" /></a></em><figcaption><em><span class="caption">Participants wore a cap covered in electrodes to detect electrical activity in the brain.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Donna Squire</span>, <span class="license">Author provided</span></span></em></figcaption></figure> <p>We also monitored the body by measuring heart rate, breathing and sweat response. This could reveal if someone could detect a change to the environment, without being consciously aware of that change.</p> <p>Lastly, we asked participants to report their emotions to understand if this matched their brain and body responses.</p> <p><strong>What did we find?</strong></p> <p>We published a series of studies looking at the impact of room size and colour.</p> <p>Making the room bigger resulted in brain activity usually linked to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1523/ENEURO.0104-22.2022" target="_blank" rel="noopener">attention and cognitive performance</a>. This is the type of brain activity we would see if you were doing a crossword, your homework or focusing on a tricky report you were writing for work.</p> <p>A blue room resulted in brain activity associated with <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/psyp.14121" target="_blank" rel="noopener">emotional processing</a>. This is the pattern we’d typically see if you were looking at something that you felt positive about, such as a smiling face, or a scenic sunset.</p> <p>Changing the size and colour of a room also changed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/hbm.26061" target="_blank" rel="noopener">brain network communication</a>. This is when different parts of the brain “talk” to one another. This could be communication between parts of the brain involved in seeing and attention, the type of communication needed when viewing a complex scene, such as scanning a crowded room to spot a friend.</p> <p>The rooms also changed the participants’ autonomic response (their patterns of breathing, heart activity and sweating).</p> <hr /> <figure><iframe title="YouTube video player" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/dPHOQvLOCD4" width="100%" height="400" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe><figcaption><em>Your brain and body give away what you feel and think about different rooms, even if you can’t tell us yourself.</em></figcaption></figure> <hr /> <p>Despite these brain and body responses, we found no change in what participants told us about their emotions in each of these different conditions.</p> <p>This suggests the need to shift from just asking people about their emotions to capturing effects they may not be consciously perceive or comprehend.</p> <p><strong>What does this mean for designing buildings?</strong></p> <p>This work tells us that characteristics of buildings have an impact on our brains and our bodies.</p> <p>Our next steps include testing whether a larger room affects brain processes we use in everyday life. These include working memory (which we’d use to remember our shopping list) and emotion recognition (how we recognise what different facial expressions mean).</p> <p>This will enable us to understand if we can design spaces to optimise our cognitive performance.</p> <p>We also want to understand the implications on a wider population, including people who may be experiencing poor mental health, or diagnosed with an underlying condition where the environment may have a larger impact on their response.</p> <p>This will help us to understand if we can change our built environment for better health and performance.</p> <p><strong>Why is this important?</strong></p> <p>Architects have long claimed buildings <a href="https://theconversation.com/build-me-up-how-architecture-can-affect-emotions-22950" target="_blank" rel="noopener">affect our emotion</a>. But there has been a lack of brain-based evidence to back this.</p> <p>We hope our work can help shape building planning and design, to support the brain processes and emotions we might require under different circumstances.<!-- 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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/189797/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: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><span id="docs-internal-guid-f8f5c00a-7fff-7782-8b2d-8aed485da047">Written by Isaballa Bower. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/your-home-office-or-uni-affects-your-mood-and-how-you-think-how-do-we-know-we-looked-into-peoples-brains-189797" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>.</span></em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

Mind

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Gentlemen DO prefer blondes

<p dir="ltr">Almost half of Aussies (42%) are in relationships with someone who doesn’t reflect their type, according to new research by dating app eharmony. </p> <p dir="ltr">This challenges the definition of having a “type”, which often is misleading and can restrict romantic potential. </p> <p dir="ltr">eharmony psychologist Sharon Draper said it’s not surprising that apps have affected the dating world.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It’s not that surprising that so many people have a preconceived idea about their type, but it is unfortunate that this can act as a barrier to finding love,” she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The fact that almost one in three of those in relationships are with partners who do not typically reflect their preferences, proves that our lustful leanings can be unreliable.</p> <p dir="ltr">“In the world of online dating, it’s easy to make snap judgements based on appearance. But numerous scientifically based studies demonstrate that long after sexual chemistry has peaked, its high compatibility that determines romantic success or failure.”</p> <p dir="ltr">More than half of those polled (56%) admit they avoid dating matches that don’t fit all their chosen criteria, meaning that up to 14 million individuals may be missing out on finding real love.</p> <p dir="ltr">More than half of online love-seekers (53%) admit they have a type when it comes to dating (51% men versus 54% women), including an inclination for certain hair colour, height and body size.</p> <p dir="ltr">Women prefer the darker hair look (34%), but it seems gentlemen do prefer blondes, with fair locks taking out the top spot (37%) for their dating type. </p> <p dir="ltr">Redheads appeal to just over one in 10 (13%) Aussies when it comes to romantic choices.</p> <p dir="ltr">Women are generally (40%) smitten for the stereotypical ‘tall dark and handsome’ type – preferring to date men of taller stature who have dark hair.</p> <p dir="ltr">In terms of body size, almost half of men (48%) would prefer to date someone of slim build, whereas only a quarter of women (27%) require their blokes to be trim.</p> <p dir="ltr">Compared to Brits, Aussies are more likely to go for the athletic type, with a third (34%) of Aussies liking tall or large, compared to only 18% of our northern hemisphere cousins.</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image: Shutterstock</em></p>

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‘Laid awake and wept’: destruction of nature takes a toll on the human psyche. Here’s one way to cope

<p>Predictions of catastrophic climate change seem endless – and already, its effects are hard to ignore. Events such as bushfires, floods and species loss generate feelings of sadness, anxiety and grief in many people. But this toll on the human psyche is often overlooked.</p> <p>Our research has investigated the negative emotions that emerge in Australians in response to the destruction of nature, and how we can process them. We’ve found being in nature is crucial.</p> <p>Our latest <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/14/13/7948/htm#B9-sustainability-14-07948" target="_blank" rel="noopener">research</a> examined an eco-tourism enterprise in Australia. There, visitors’ emotional states were often connected to nature’s cycles of decay and regeneration. As nature renews, so does human hope.</p> <p>As our climate changes, humans will inhabit and know the world differently. Our findings suggest nature is both the trigger for, and answer to, the grief that will increasingly be with us.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/476832/original/file-20220801-70681-b3fz6g.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/476832/original/file-20220801-70681-b3fz6g.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/476832/original/file-20220801-70681-b3fz6g.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=585&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/476832/original/file-20220801-70681-b3fz6g.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=585&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/476832/original/file-20220801-70681-b3fz6g.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=585&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/476832/original/file-20220801-70681-b3fz6g.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=736&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/476832/original/file-20220801-70681-b3fz6g.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=736&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/476832/original/file-20220801-70681-b3fz6g.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=736&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="three bushwalkers traverse a green ridge" /></a><figcaption><span class="caption">Immersion in nature can improve people’s emotional wellbeing.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Tourism Queensland</span></span></figcaption></figure> <p><strong>Emotions of climate distress</strong></p> <p>Our research has previously examined how acknowledging and processing emotions can help humans <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/17565529.2021.1881425" target="_blank" rel="noopener">heal</a> in a time of significant planetary change. This healing can often come about through social, collective approaches involving connection with the Earth’s natural systems.</p> <p>Eco-tourism experiences offer opportunities to connect with nature. Our recent <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1745-5871.12554" target="_blank" rel="noopener">research</a> examined the experiences of tourists who had recently stayed at Mount Barney Lodge in Queensland’s Scenic Rim region.</p> <p>The eco-tourism business is located on Minjelha Dhagun Country, next to the World Heritage-listed Mount Barney National Park. The region was <a href="https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/fires-floods-global-pandemic-mount-barney-lodge/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">badly affected</a> by the Black Summer bushfires of 2019-2020.</p> <p>Through an online questionnaire conducted last year, we sought to understand visitors’ psychological experiences and responses while at the lodge.</p> <p>Seventy-two participants were recruited via an information sheet and flyer placed in the lodge reception. The youngest was aged 18, the oldest was 78 and the average age was 46. Some 71% were female and 29% were male.</p> <p>We found 78% of respondents experienced sadness, anger, anxiety and other grieving emotions in response to current pressures on the Earth’s life supporting systems.</p> <p>One reflected on how they “have laid awake at night thinking about all the biodiversity loss [and] climate change and wept” and another said they felt “so sad for the animals” in the face of bushfires or urban sprawl.</p> <figure class="align-center "><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/476830/original/file-20220801-31624-gg9eio.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/476830/original/file-20220801-31624-gg9eio.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=450&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/476830/original/file-20220801-31624-gg9eio.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=450&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/476830/original/file-20220801-31624-gg9eio.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=450&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/476830/original/file-20220801-31624-gg9eio.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=566&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/476830/original/file-20220801-31624-gg9eio.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=566&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/476830/original/file-20220801-31624-gg9eio.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=566&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="two koalas huddle on felled trees" /><figcaption><span class="caption">Environmental destruction triggers sadness and other emotions – but immersion in nature can help.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">WWF Australia</span></span></figcaption></figure> <p>Another participant spoke of their sadness following bushfires in the Snowy Mountains fires of New South Wales:</p> <blockquote> <p>This area is where I [spent] much of my youth, so it was really sad to see it perish. I felt like I was experiencing the same hurt that the environment (trees, wildlife) was – as my memories were embedded in that location.</p> </blockquote> <p>This response reflects how nature can give people a sense of place and identity – and how damage to that environment can erode their wellbeing.</p> <p>But grief can also emerge in anticipation of a loss that has not yet occurred. One visitor told us:</p> <blockquote> <p>When I was little, I thought of the world as kind of guaranteed – it would always be there – and having that certainty taken away […] knowing that the world might not be survivable for a lot of people by the time I’m a grown-up – it’s grief, and anger, and fear of how much grief is still to come.</p> </blockquote> <p>Anger and frustration towards the then-federal government were also prominent. Participants spoke of a “lack of leadership” and the “government’s inability to commit to a decent climate policy”. They also expressed frustration at “business profits being put ahead of environmental protection”.</p> <p>Participants also said “it feels like we can’t do anything to stop [climate change]” and “anything we do try, and change is never going to be enough”.</p> <figure class="align-center "><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/476835/original/file-20220801-9120-yt41gw.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/476835/original/file-20220801-9120-yt41gw.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=400&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/476835/original/file-20220801-9120-yt41gw.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=400&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/476835/original/file-20220801-9120-yt41gw.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=400&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/476835/original/file-20220801-9120-yt41gw.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/476835/original/file-20220801-9120-yt41gw.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/476835/original/file-20220801-9120-yt41gw.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="fire officials stand in front of smoke-filled landscape" /><figcaption><span class="caption">Participants felt they lacked control over the effects of climate change.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Sean Davey/AAP</span></span></figcaption></figure> <p><strong>Healing through immersion in nature</strong></p> <p>Emotions such as <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-018-0092-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener">ecological grief</a> and <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(20)30144-3/fulltext" target="_blank" rel="noopener">eco-anxiety</a> are perfectly rational responses to environmental change. But we must engage with and process them if their <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-020-0712-5" target="_blank" rel="noopener">transformative potential</a> is to be realised.</p> <p>There is increasing <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1005566612706" target="_blank" rel="noopener">evidence</a> of nature’s ability to <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0013916508319745" target="_blank" rel="noopener">help people</a> sit with and process complex emotional states – improving their mood, and becoming happier and more satisfied with life.</p> <p>Participants in our study described how being in natural areas such as Mount Barney helped them deal with heavy emotions triggered by nature’s demise.</p> <p>Participants were variously “retreating to nature as much as possible”, “appreciating the bush more” and “spending as much time outside [so] that I can hear trees, plants, and animals”.</p> <p>Participants explained how “being in nature is important to mental wellbeing”, is “healing and rejuvenating” and “always gives me a sense of spiritual coherence and connection with the natural world”.</p> <p>For some, this rejuvenation is what’s needed to continue fighting. One participant said:</p> <blockquote> <p>If we don’t see the places, we forget what we’re fighting for, and we’re more likely to get burned out trying to protect the world.</p> </blockquote> <p>Similarly, one participant spoke of observing the resilience and healing of nature itself after devastation:</p> <blockquote> <p>[I] find peace and some confidence in its [nature’s] ability to regenerate if given a chance.</p> </blockquote> <figure class="align-center "><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/476820/original/file-20220801-38718-odw5xf.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/476820/original/file-20220801-38718-odw5xf.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=450&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/476820/original/file-20220801-38718-odw5xf.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=450&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/476820/original/file-20220801-38718-odw5xf.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=450&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/476820/original/file-20220801-38718-odw5xf.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=566&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/476820/original/file-20220801-38718-odw5xf.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=566&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/476820/original/file-20220801-38718-odw5xf.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=566&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="green grass springs from blackened landscape" /><figcaption><span class="caption">This image of Mount Barney National Park shows nature’s ability to regenerate after bushfires.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Innes Larkin</span></span></figcaption></figure> <p><strong>The call back to nature</strong></p> <p>Our findings suggest immersing ourselves in nature more frequently will help us process emotions linked to ecological and climate breakdown – and thus find hope.</p> <p>Eco-tourism sites promote opportunities for what’s known as <a href="https://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/book/9781501715228/earth-emotions/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">eutierria</a> – a powerful state that arises when one experiences a sense of oneness and symbiosis with Earth and her life-supporting systems.</p> <p>Through this powerful state, it’s possible for one to undertake the courageous acts needed to advocate on behalf of nature. This is essential for the transformations Earth desperately needs.<!-- 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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/187837/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: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ross-westoby-755937" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Ross Westoby</a>, Research Fellow, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Griffith University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/karen-e-mcnamara-41028" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Karen E McNamara</a>, Associate professor, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The University of Queensland</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/rachel-clissold-1040363" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Rachel Clissold</a>, Researcher, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The University of Queensland</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/laid-awake-and-wept-destruction-of-nature-takes-a-toll-on-the-human-psyche-heres-one-way-to-cope-187837" target="_blank" rel="noopener">original article</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

Mind

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The “marshmallow test” of delayed gratification is actually culturally diverse

<p>The <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_marshmallow_experiment" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Stanford marshmallow experiment</a> is one of the most enduring child psychology studies of the last 50 years.</p> <p>The test is a simple one. A child aged between 3 and 6 had a marshmallow (later experiments also used a pretzel) placed in front of them and told that if they wait, they could have a second marshmallow when the tester returned. The original study found that those who waited for the extra marshmallow had more success as an adult than those that scoffed the marshmallow down, suggesting that being able to delay gratification is an important life skill. </p> <p>But since its inception, people have argued whether waiting for a marshmallow as a five-year-old can really tell you how successful, thin and educated you’ll be as an adult, or if there might be other, more complicated factors going on behind the scenes.</p> <p>A new study published in the journal <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/09567976221074650?journalCode=pssa" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener"><em>Psychological Science</em></a> has suggested one of those factors – showing that cultural upbringing could change the way children respond.</p> <p> “We found that the ability to delay gratification – which predicts many important life outcomes – is not just about variations in genes or brain development but also about habits supported by culture,” <a href="https://www.colorado.edu/today/2022/07/21/new-take-marshmallow-test-when-it-comes-resisting-temptation-childs-cultural-upbringing" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">said one of the researchers</a>, University of Colorado Boulder psychology researcher Yuko Munakata.</p> <p>“It calls into question: How much of our scientific conclusions are shaped by the cultural lens we, as researchers, bring to our work?”</p> <div class="newsletter-box"> <div id="wpcf7-f6-p199467-o1" class="wpcf7" dir="ltr" lang="en-US" role="form"> <form class="wpcf7-form mailchimp-ext-0.5.62 resetting spai-bg-prepared" action="/people/marshmallow-test-cultural-diverse/#wpcf7-f6-p199467-o1" method="post" novalidate="novalidate" data-status="resetting"> <p style="display: none !important;"><span class="wpcf7-form-control-wrap referer-page"><input class="wpcf7-form-control wpcf7-text referer-page spai-bg-prepared" name="referer-page" type="hidden" value="https://cosmosmagazine.com/people/" data-value="https://cosmosmagazine.com/people/" aria-invalid="false" /></span></p> <p><!-- Chimpmail extension by Renzo Johnson --></form> </div> </div> <p>This is a larger problem than just some kids eating marshmallows. Historically, science – across <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/clinical-trials-have-far-too-little-racial-and-ethnic-diversity/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">clinical</a> and <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1745691620927709" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">psychology</a> research – has a habit of having too little cultural diversity, and the new research shows why this can be an issue.</p> <p>The researchers found that the 80 children in Japan were much better at waiting to eat food when asked than the 58 children in the United States. However, this was reversed when asked to wait to open gifts.  </p> <p>“This interaction may reflect cultural differences: waiting to eat is emphasised more in Japan than in the United States, whereas waiting to open gifts is emphasised more in the United States than in Japan,” <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/09567976221074650" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">the team write in their new paper.</a> </p> <p>“These findings suggest that culturally specific habits support delaying gratification, providing a new way to understand why individuals delay gratification and why this behaviour predicts life success.”</p> <p>This small study doesn’t look into the longer-term results of the original marshmallow experiment, like whether the kids will be more successful as adults. Along with cultural differences, other studies have shown <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2018/06/marshmallow-test/561779/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">qualities like affluence</a> are also a defining factor.</p> <p>All of this is only if the marshmallow test actually holds at all. <a href="https://anderson-review.ucla.edu/new-study-disavows-marshmallow-tests-predictive-powers/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Recent follow up studies</a> with <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797618761661" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">larger groups</a> of children followed into adulthood have shown that those who chose marshmallowey goodness straight away are not generally more or less financially secure, educated or healthy than their food-delaying peers.</p> <p>It seems that 50 years later the test is still telling us things – just about our own biases rather than predicting the future of five-year-olds.</p> <p><!-- Start of tracking content syndication. Please do not remove this section as it allows us to keep track of republished articles --></p> <p><img id="cosmos-post-tracker" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=199467&amp;title=The+%26%238220%3Bmarshmallow+test%26%238221%3B+of+delayed+gratification+is+actually+culturally+diverse" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><!-- End of tracking content syndication --></p> <div id="contributors"> <p><em><a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/people/marshmallow-test-cultural-diverse/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">This article</a> was originally published on <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/contributor/jacinta-bowler" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Jacinta Bowler</a>. Jacinta Bowler is a freelance science journalist who has written about far-flung exoplanets, terrifying superbugs and everything in between. They have written articles for ABC, SBS, ScienceAlert and Pedestrian, and are a regular contributor for kids magazines Double Helix and KIT.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p> </div>

Caring

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Which of these pictures is a deepfake? Your brain knows the answer before you do

<p>Deepfakes – AI-generated videos and pictures of people – are becoming more and more realistic. This makes them the perfect weapon for disinformation and fraud.</p> <p>But while you might consciously be tricked by a deepfake, new evidence suggests that your brain knows better. Fake portraits cause different signals to fire on brain scans, according to a paper <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.visres.2022.108079" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">published</a> in <em>Vision Research.</em></p> <p>While you consciously can’t spot the fake (for those playing at home, the face on the right is the phony), your neurons are more reliable.</p> <p>“Your brain sees the difference between the two images. You just can’t see it yet,” says co-author Associate Professor Thomas Carlson, a researcher at the University of Sydney’s School of Psychology.</p> <p>The researchers asked volunteers to view a series of several hundred photos, some of which were real and some of which were fakes generated by a GAN (a Generative Adversarial Network, a common way of making deepfakes).</p> <p>One group of 200 participants was asked to guess which images were real, and which were fake, by pressing a button.</p> <p>A different group of 22 participants didn’t guess, but underwent electroencephalography (EEG) tests while they were viewing the images.</p> <p>The EEGs showed distinct signals when participants were viewing deepfakes, compared to real images.</p> <p>“The brain is responding different than when it sees a real image,” says Carlson.</p> <div class="newsletter-box"> <div id="wpcf7-f6-p197814-o1" class="wpcf7" dir="ltr" lang="en-US" role="form"> </div> </div> <p>“It’s sort of difficult to figure out what exactly it’s picking up on, because all you can really see is that it is different – that’s something we’ll have to do more research to figure out.”</p> <p>The EEG scans weren’t foolproof: they could only spot deepfakes 54% of the time. But that’s significantly better than the participants who were guessing consciously. People only found deepfakes 37% of the time – worse than if they’d just flipped a coin.</p> <p>“The fact that the brain can detect deepfakes means current deepfakes are flawed,” says Carlson.</p> <p>“If we can learn how the brain spots deepfakes, we could use this information to create algorithms to flag potential deepfakes on digital platforms like Facebook and Twitter.”</p> <p>It could also be used to prevent fraud and theft.</p> <p>“EEG-enabled helmets could have been helpful in preventing recent bank heist and corporate fraud cases in Dubai and the UK, where scammers used cloned voice technology to steal tens of millions of dollars,” says Carlson.</p> <p>“In these cases, finance personnel thought they heard the voice of a trusted client or associate and were duped into transferring funds.”</p> <p>But this is by no means a guarantee. The researchers point out in their paper that, even while they were doing the research, GANs got more advanced and generated better fake images than the ones they used in their study. It’s possible that, once the algorithms exist, deepfakers will just figure out ways to circumvent them.</p> <p>“That said, the deepfakes are always being generated by a computer that has an ‘idea’ of what a face is,” says Carlson.</p> <p>“As long as it’s generating these things from this ‘idea’, there might be just the slightest thing that’s wrong. It’s a matter of figuring out what’s wrong with it this time.”</p> <p><img id="cosmos-post-tracker" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=197814&amp;title=Which+of+these+pictures+is+a+deepfake%3F+Your+brain+knows+the+answer+before+you+do" width="1" height="1" /></p> <div id="contributors"> <p><em><a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/technology/deepfakes-brain-eegs/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">This article</a> was originally published on <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/contributor/ellen-phiddian" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Ellen Phiddian</a>. Ellen Phiddian is a science journalist at Cosmos. She has a BSc (Honours) in chemistry and science communication, and an MSc in science communication, both from the Australian National University.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Moshel et al. 2022, Vision Research, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.visres.2022.108079</em></p> </div>

Technology

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Karl Marx: his philosophy explained

<p>In 1845, Karl Marx <a href="https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/theses/theses.htm">declared</a>: “philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it”.</p> <p>Change it he did. </p> <p>Political movements representing masses of new industrial workers, many inspired by his thought, reshaped the world in the 19th and 20th centuries through revolution and reform. His work influenced unions, labour parties and social democratic parties, and helped spark revolution via communist parties in Europe and beyond.</p> <p>Around the world, “Marxist” governments were formed, who claimed to be committed to his principles, and who upheld dogmatic versions of his thought as part of their official doctrine. </p> <p>Marx’s thought was groundbreaking. It came to stimulate arguments in every major language, in philosophy, history, politics and economics. It even helped to found the discipline of sociology.</p> <p>Although his influence in the social sciences and humanities is not what it once was, his work continues to help theorists make sense of the complex social structures that shape our lives.</p> <h2>Economics</h2> <p>Marx was writing when mid-Victorian capitalism was at its Dickensian worst, analysing how the new industrialism was causing radical social upheaval and severe urban poverty. Of his many writings, perhaps the most well known and influential are the rather large Capital Volume 1 (1867) and the very small Communist Manifesto (1848), penned with his collaborator Frederick Engels.</p> <p>On economics alone, he made important observations that influenced our understanding of the role of boom/bust cycles, the link between market competition and rapid technological advances, and the tendency of markets towards concentration and monopolies.</p> <p>Marx also made prescient observations regarding what we now call “<a href="https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/351/35192/capital/9780140445688.html">globalisation</a>”. He emphasised “the newly created connections […] of the world market” and the important role of international trade.</p> <p>At the time, property owners held the vast majority of wealth, and their wealth rapidly accumulated through the creation of factories.</p> <p>The labour of the workers – the property-less masses – was bought and sold like any other commodity. The workers toiled for starvation wages, as “appendages of the machine[s]”, in Marx’s famous phrase. By holding them in this position, the owners grew ever richer, siphoning off the value created by this labour. </p> <p>This would inevitably lead to militant international political organisation in response. </p> <p>It is from this we get Marx’s <a href="https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/">famous call</a> in 1848, the year of Europe-wide revolutions, "workers of the world unite!"</p> <h2>Society</h2> <p>To do philosophy properly, Marx thought, we have to form theories that capture the concrete details of real people’s lives – to make theory fully grounded in practice.</p> <p>His primary interest wasn’t simply capitalism. It was human existence and our potential. </p> <p>His enduring philosophical contribution is an insightful, historically grounded perspective on human beings and industrial society.</p> <p>Marx observed capitalism wasn’t only an economic system by which we produced food, clothing and shelter; it was also bound up with a system of social relations. </p> <p>Work structured people’s lives and opportunities in different ways depending on their role in the production process: most people were either part of the “owning class” or “working class”. The interests of these classes were fundamentally opposed, which led inevitably to conflict between them.</p> <p>On the basis of this, Marx predicted the inevitable collapse of capitalism leading to equally inevitable working-class revolutions. However, he seriously underestimated capitalism’s adaptability. In particular, the way that parliamentary democracy and the welfare state could moderate the excesses and instabilities of the economic system.</p> <h2>Innovation</h2> <p>Marx argued social change is driven by the tension created within an existing social order through technological and organisational innovations in production.</p> <p>Technology-driven changes in production make new social forms possible, such that old social forms and classes become outmoded and displaced by new ones. Once, the dominant class were the land owning lords. But the new industrial system produced a new dominant class: the capitalists.</p> <p>Against the philosophical trend to view human beings as simply organic machines, Marx saw us as a creative and productive type of being. Humanity uses these capacities to transform the natural world. However, in doing this we also, throughout history, transform ourselves in the process. This makes human life distinct from that of other animals. </p> <h2>History</h2> <p>The conditions under which people live deeply shape the way they see and understand the world. As Marx put it, "men make their own history [but] they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves."</p> <p>Marx viewed human history as process of people progressively overcoming impediments to self-understanding and freedom. These impediments can be mental, material and institutional. He believed philosophy could offer ways we might realise our human potential in the world.</p> <p>Theories, he said, were not just about “interpreting the world”, but “changing it”.</p> <p>Individuals and groups are situated in social contexts inherited from the past which limit what they can do – but these social contexts afford us certain possibilities. </p> <p>The present political situation that confronts us and the scope for actions we might take to improve it, is the result of our being situated in our unique place and time in history. </p> <p>This approach has influenced thinkers across traditions and continents to better understand the complexities of the social and political world, and to think more concretely about prospects for change.</p> <p>On the basis of his historical approach, Marx argued inequality is not a natural fact; it is socially created. He sought to show how economic systems such as feudalism or capitalism – despite being hugely complex historical developments – were ultimately our own creations.</p> <h2>Alienation and freedom</h2> <p>By seeing the economic system and what it produces as objective and independent of humanity, this system comes to dominate us. When systematic exploitation is viewed as a product of the “natural order”, humans are, from a philosophical perspective, “enslaved” by their own creation. </p> <p>What we have produced comes to be viewed as alien to us. Marx called this process “alienation”.</p> <p>Despite having intrinsic creative capacities, most of humanity experience themselves as stifled by the conditions in which they work and live. They are alienated a) in the production process (“what” is produced and “how”); b) from others (with whom they constantly compete); and c) from their own creative potential.</p> <p>For Marx, human beings intrinsically strive toward freedom, and we are not really free unless we control our own destiny. </p> <p>Marx believed a rational social order could realise our human capacities as individuals as well as collectively, overcoming political and economic inequalities. </p> <p>Writing in a period before workers could even vote (as voting was restricted to landowning males) Marx argued “the full and free development of every individual” – along with meaningful participation in the decisions that shaped their lives – would be realised through the creation of a “classless society [of] the free and equal”.</p> <h2>Ideology</h2> <p>Marx’s concept of ideology introduced an innovative way to critique how dominant beliefs and practices – commonly taken to be for the good of all – actually reflect the interests and reinforce the power of the “ruling” class. </p> <p>For Marx, beliefs in philosophy, culture and economics often function to rationalise unfair advantages and privileges as “natural” when, in fact, the amount of change we see in history shows they are not.</p> <p>He was not saying this is a conspiracy of the ruling class, where those in the dominant class believe things simply because they reinforce the present power structure. </p> <p>Rather, it is because people are raised and learn how to think within a given social order. Through this, the views that seem eminently rational rather conveniently tend to uphold the distribution of power and wealth as they are.</p> <p>Marx had always aspired to be a philosopher, but was unable to pursue it as a profession because his views were judged too radical for a university post in his native Prussia. Instead, he earned his living as a crusading journalist.</p> <p>By any account, Marx was a giant of modern thought. </p> <p>His influence was so far reaching that people are often unaware just how much his ideas have shaped their own thinking.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/karl-marx-his-philosophy-explained-164068" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>

Mind

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8 little changes you can make to sleep better in just one day

<h2>What you can do now to improve sleep later</h2> <p>Not sleeping is the worst, and there can be plenty of reasons why you can’t drift off, including sleep disorders (besides sleep apnoea). If you’ve already tried doing some stretches before bed to help sleep better, limiting your caffeine, and sipping on chamomile tea to no avail, you might want to work on getting better slumber from the moment you wake up.</p> <h2>Try some reverse psychology</h2> <p>If you want to fall asleep faster, think about staying awake. “It sounds counter-intuitive, but for those who find it difficult to sleep because they keep worrying about not falling asleep, do the opposite,” says Dr Sujay Kansagra, director of Duke University’s Sleep Medicine program. Most of the time falling asleep is an involuntary process that takes virtually no effort on our part but if we’re anxious, we do things like looking at the clock and calculating how little sleep we’re going to get, which then causes sleep performance anxiety. “Instead of worrying about falling asleep, think about staying awake instead. This often lessens anxiety and gives your mind a chance to relax enough to fall asleep. It’s a technique known as paradoxical intent, a cognitive behavioural therapy technique used to lessen the anxiety around falling asleep.</p> <h2>Stop snacking in bed</h2> <p>Noshing in bed is not great for getting for sleeping. “Eating in the bedroom, especially right before bedtime, can be very disruptive to sleep,” says physician, Dr Robert I. Danoff. Salt-filled snacks could make you thirsty, drinking too much fluid prior to bedtime may cause extra trips to the bathroom, and any caffeine within four hours of sleep may keep you awake or cause disrupted sleep. Caffeine can also make you feel anxious and jittery.</p> <h2>Listen to these grown-up lullabies</h2> <p>Even if our parents couldn’t carry a tune, a lullaby was a soothing way to get us to sleep. They knew then what science has found: that certain kinds of music can improve the quality of your sleep. Research published in 2019 in Scientific Reports found that relaxing music improves sleep quality. They also found that those who listened to music transitioned from wake to sleep more quickly. Other research has found that music may even benefit people with insomnia.</p> <h2>Put it in neutral</h2> <p>Ever watch a dog before he lays down to sleep? He circles for a bit, lands, adjusts his position a few times and finally heads to snooze town. He must know what his neutral position is. “Just as important as the quantity of sleep is the quality of sleep, and a large aspect of this is posture,” says sleep medicine specialist, Dr Param Dedhia. “A neutral spine can be on the back and it can be on the side. The positioning with pillows is key. When our body is neutral with an aligned spine, it allows our musculoskeletal and neurological system to be with less twisting, pushing and pulling. Neck, shoulder, low back and hip pain are less aggravated with a neutral spine,” says Dr Dedhia. Even when you shift positions in the night, you can still maintain a neutral position by using your pillow to readjust and align the spine to be comfier.</p> <h2>Talk to your doctor about magnesium</h2> <p>If you want to improve your sleep tonight, you may want to consider a magnesium boost. A magnesium deficiency can contribute to insomnia and other health problems. The recommended daily intake for magnesium for adults ranges from 310 mg to 420 mg, depending on sex and age. Talk to your doctor about whether a supplement is right for you.</p> <h2>Kick your pooch out of bed</h2> <p>If you’re having trouble sleeping and have checked off the common culprits, the answer could be co-sleeping with your furry friend. “The movements and breathing of a pet may be somewhat distracting and disrupt falling back to sleep,” says sleep specialist, Dr Mark Buchfuhrer. “In addition, patients with allergies to pets may have increased allergic symptoms such as the runny nose or nasal congestion that may interfere with sleep.”</p> <h2>Go for the earplugs or sleeping mask</h2> <p>Making your bedroom the ultimate sleep oasis isn’t too difficult with a few simple tips. Dr Buchfuhrer has a nifty checklist to make it happen: random noises can interrupt light sleepers. Earplugs or white noise from a fan can help keep a constant hum going. We’ve all heard by now about how ‘blue light’ from our devices, TVs and other electronics can mess with melatonin production, a sleep hormone. “Avoid watching LCD TV or computer screens for a few hours before bedtime as they emit higher frequencies of light similar to daylight.” Dr Buchfuhrer suggests downloading FLUX to adjust your computer screen to emit light that is appropriate for the time of day. Blackout curtains and sleeping masks are essential if you suspect the light levels in your bedroom are keeping you awake. You may even want to switch out your bulbs tonight.</p> <h2>Write it out</h2> <p>Your head finally hits the pillow and you let out a soft yawn before you drift off – until you remember all the things you have to do tomorrow. If you want to fall asleep faster tonight, try Dr Kansagra’s suggestion and create a list of tasks, worries, chores, or whatever is keeping your awake. This technique is ideal for those who mentally work through their list of pending responsibilities before bed. “You can prevent yourself from thinking about it excessively just before bed,” says Dr Kansagra. This strategy works best if you do it more than an hour before bed, otherwise, the task may be too stimulating.</p> <p><em><strong><span id="docs-internal-guid-9f77c72b-7fff-27e4-f26a-de9081b78e37">This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/healthsmart/conditions/sleep/8-little-changes-you-can-make-to-sleep-better-in-just-one-day" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader’s Digest</a>.</span></strong></em></p> <p><em>Image: Shutterstock</em></p>

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Why women make up more than 80 per cent of true crime podcast listeners

<p dir="ltr">It’s been a running joke for a while that most true crime podcast listeners are female.</p> <p dir="ltr">But it has now been revealed that young women make up a whopping 80 per cent of true crime podcast listeners. </p> <p dir="ltr">Dr Julia Shaw, a criminal psychologist and co-host of the true crime and science podcast Bad People, said the simple reason was due to women’s experiences.</p> <p dir="ltr">She explained that growing up, women are told to keep an eye out for any danger such as a man staring at you for too long or following you home. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Women seem particularly interested in the intricacies of the criminal mind,” she told The Daily Mail. </p> <p dir="ltr">“There is a real drive to understand the 'why', not just the 'how' of the crime.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Claire Bord, a publisher at Bookouture concurred with Dr Shaw’s statement explaining how easy it was for women to “resonate” with the situation.</p> <p dir="ltr">“These kind of storylines tap into dark themes that resonate with readers because we can see ourselves in these everyday scenarios and then imagine what could happen,” she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I also think there are aspects of the dark themes explored in psychological thrillers, and indeed true crime, that can speak deeply to readers who have experienced difficult times in their own lives.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image: Shutterstock</em></p>

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