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Psychology

Is Stress The Result Of The ‘Lump In Your Throat’ Feeling?

Many of us are familiar with the feeling of having a frog in your throat when you start talking. Now, an interesting new study from the University of Missouri says that the reason behind this could be stress, which prevents us from speaking clearly or really being able to control our voice. The study presents the so-called “Theory of Voice Disorder Traits” and finds that stress-induced brain activations may lead to voice disorders such as muscular tension dysphonia, which will occur due to excessive or altered muscular tension in the voice box or around it. This will of course change the sound that is produced.

“For many, public speaking can be a stressful situation,says Maria Dietrich, director of the Control and Vocal Welfare Laboratory at the University of Missouri. “We know that stress can trigger physiological changes such as muscle tension and that can affect our speech. The new findings will help researchers better understand the relationship between stress and vocal control and allow us to identify brain activations that affect voices to identify better treatments for disorders.

The study was conducted as follows: women were asked to prepare a five-minute speech on-the-fly about why they were the best person for a certain job. Then, the researches analyzed saliva samples to detect cortisol, which is the body’s main stress hormone. They also used MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) to see what the brain was doing at different times.

Dietrich found that there were many interesting differences and commonalities in brain activity and the results of how the participants did. Those participants who had higher levels of cortisol showed brain activity that affected the larynx, and overall did noticeably worse than participants who did not show high stress levels. See the results of the study here.

“Our findings are consistent with the theories of vocal traits related to personality,” says Dietrich. “Those who are more introverted are more likely to have stress reactions that involve speech and their brains are recording that stress, which could affect their vocal control.” The expert advises that to speak in public successfully, one should not be thinking about the fact that the speaker is being judged, and to relax as if you are the only one in the room.

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Psychology

Women Are Currently Considered As Competent As Men – If Not More

A lot of research has been done on women’s rights over the past 70 years. Most recently, a new study published in American Psychologist has done some detailed work in this area, and their conclusion is as follows: women are currently considered just as competent as men, if not more.

“Challenging the traditional claims that stereotypes of women and men are fixed or rigid, our study joins others to show that stereotypes are flexible to changes in social roles,”notes Alice Eagly, lead author of the study. “As the roles of women and men have changed since the mid-20th century, so have beliefs about their attributes.”

The team of researchers analyzed 16 public polls where more than thirty thousand adults participated between 1946 and 2018. The three traits studied were compassion, ambition and competence. Participants were asked to rate which traits were more common in men or women, or if they were equally true for both.

Interestingly – but perhaps not surprisingly – stereotypes and the results of polls changed a lot over time. In 1946, only 1 in 3 people thought women were as intelligent as men, whereas in 2018 86% thought men and women were equally intelligent. Also, more recently, more and more people have reported as believing women to be more compassionate and sensitive.

“These current stereotypes should favor the employment of women because competition is, of course, a job requirement for virtually all jobs. In addition, jobs increasingly reward social skills, which makes the greater communion of women an additional advantage,” Eagly adds. “On a less positive note, most leadership roles require more ambition than communion. Therefore, the smaller ambition attributed to women is a disadvantage in relation to leadership positions.”

The researchers noted that while public sentiment has changed, it is still the case that men are most common in leadership roles and occupations that require strength and analytical skills. Women, by contrast, are still much more common in childcare and domestic work areas.

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Psychology

Why Do Our Brains Love Gossip?

New research from PNAS has shown that the brain enjoys new information as much as it enjoys receiving an amount of money. In addition, the same area of the brain is activated as when a person earns money, with the same dopamine hit. “For the brain, information is its own reward, regardless of whether it is useful. Just as our brain likes the empty calories of junk food, it can also overestimate information that makes us feel good, even if it is unusable. It is what is known as idle curiosity, says Ming Hsu, a professor at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.

This research provides a hint at why social media addiction is so prevalent these days: our brains are always on the look for new information. It’s easy to see why we may be wired this way, being that in ancient times any piece of information received may have been of use, similar to how we needed every piece of food and sugar we could get. Now, however, we suffer from the disease of abundance. When surfing online or watching TV, it’s an assault to our senses as we are bombarded with information. The way in which our brains respond to the anticipation of a pleasant reward seems an important reason why people click on an image or a news item or throw their ear to gossip, no matter how childish its content is. “Like junk food, this could be a situation where adaptation mechanisms are exploited now that we have unprecedented access to novel curiosities,” Hsu said.

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Psychology

Liars Are Not Always Disapproved Of

We can all agree that no-one likes liars. However, in certain professions, they tend to be more useful than in other professions. That is the conclusion that was reached by a study conducted by the University of Chicago, led by Emma Levine. This study, published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, identifies certain professions where liars are actually saught after – most notably sales.

In the study, it is revealed that bosses do not always disapproved of lying and deception. When it comes to sales, this is not too unsurprising: the ability to decieve like a psychopath may definitely come in handy when it comes to selling high ticket items.

The study conducted various experiments of interest where participants observed people who lied or acted honestly in various different situations, such as reporting their expenses after a business trip. The participants were then asked to judged how successful these people would be in different occupations.

The professions where liars were judged to be most successful in were banking, advertising and sales.

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Psychology

Do Dogs Experience Stress The Same As Humans?

Led by Ann-Sofie Sundman, a team of scientists from Linköping University has analyzed the different lifestyles of dogs and the people that they live with. The study was published in Scientific Reports and came about from the idea that if coexistence between humans tends to cause stress, perhaps coexistence between humans and dogs can also cause stress.

The researches examined 58 dogs (25 Border Collies and 33 Shetland pastors), with the owners and dogs donating their hair samples twice over the space of a few months. The goal was to measure cortisol (a stress hormone) levels. And since physical activity can easily increase cortisol levels, the researchers also examined the physical activity of the dogs.

“We found that long-term cortisol levels in the dog and its owner were synchronized,” Sundman explains in a statement. “So that humans with high cortisol levels had dogs with high cortisol levels, while owners with levels low cortisol dogs have low levels. Surprisingly, we found no significant effect of the dog’s personality on long-term stress. The personality of the owner, on the other hand, had a strong effect. This has led us to suggest that the dog reflects the stress of its owner. ”

This result indicates that if an owner is unhappy or stressed out, that will be transferred to the dog, though more work still needs to be done in this area. In particular, more breeds may need to be examined, along with dogs that are not necessarily domesticated (such as hunting dogs or dogs that are trained to be independent).

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Psychology

People Tend To Keep Dating The Same Type Of Person, Study Says

Do you find that you tend to always be attracted to the same people? If so, this study will be of interest to you. New research by social psychologists at the University of Toronto, published in PNAS, shows that people tend to seek the same romantic partners over and over again.

“It’s common that when a relationship ends, people attribute the breakup to the personality of their former partner and decide that they need to date a different type of person,” says lead author Yoobin Park. “Our research suggests that there is a strong tendency to continue having a partner with a similar personality.”

The researchers examined the personalities of the current and past spouses of 332 people, and discovered that there was almost always a very significant consistency. “Our study was particularly rigorous because not only did we trust a person to remember the personalities of their various partners,” Park said, “we also contacted the ex-partners to define themselves.”

According to the researchers, these findings may offer new ways to keep up healthy and happy relationships. After all, if you are dating a person similar to your ex, what you learned in that relationship should be applicable to the new relationship. But there are downsides as well, of course: if you had issues with a certain type of person in the past, chances are good that you will still keep running into those issues.

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Categories
Psychology

Science Asks: How Long Should We Wait Before Asking For A Favor To Be Returned?

A new investigation by the University of Pennsylvania has found that when it comes to favors, it is best to ask for them back as soon as possible, assuming we are not doing the favor as a purely selfless act. The study authors conducted a detailed experiment with many participants from a public hospital (all of them in a reasonable financial situation) who had undergone very expensive treatments. In exchange, the hospital would request a donation of any amount.

In one group they would ask for the donation just one week after the patient had undergone treatment, and in the other group, they would ask for the donation several months later.

The results were that every single person in the first group made the donation, and at a higher amount. For those in the group that were asked several months later, the researchers found that for every month that passed, the willingness to make a donation decreased by 30%.

Does this example apply to every-day situations? We think so, and in our view, the results of this study are not too surprising. The takeaway is very clear: the further into the future you get, the less likely someone is to repay a favor.

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Psychology

Memories With Smell May Be More Powerful Than Memories With Sight

What activates memory better, sight or smell? Recently, 2 separate studies have been done to identify how effective both visual memory and smell are. In the first study, researchers showed a group of people images of over 2,500 objects for more than 5 hours. Afterward, they were shown the images again, along with similar images, and were asked to identify which ones they had seen before. The results (published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)) showed that 87% of the future images shown to the participants could be correctly identified as having been shown before or not. However, if asked to recant the image from memory, participants usually only have a very vague idea of what the image looked like.

When it comes to smell, it seems that it has a greater ability to spark personal experiences. In a study published in Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, the researchers found that memories associated with odor tend to be stronger than those associated with sight or language. Also, memories associated with smell tend to form earlier, as researchers found that memories associated with smell can form and stay before the age of 10, but memories associated with sight tend to only be forged strongly between the age of ten and twenty.

More studies may need to be done in these areas, but based on these two studies, there is already strong evidence that smell forms stronger memories than sight. Why is another question, and hopefully more researchers will look into that in future as well.

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Psychology

What Happens When We’re Rejected? Science Has The Answer

There are many times when we may feel legitimate mental pain: a divorce, a conviction, rejection and more. But it’s not just extremely life-changing events that can bring us down. In the modern world, even off-the-cuff comments on social media or encountering one rude person in your day can have a negative effect on your mental health. That can be traced back to evolutionary times, when being ostracised from the group would have major implications for our survival.

What goes on in the brain when we are rejected or encounter someone rude? A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has an interesting answer that lends credence to the phrase “rejection hurts.” In the study, they analyzed what happened in the brains of 40 volunteers who had been abandoned by their parents. The MRI scanner showed that the same region of the brain is activated when someone is rejected as is activated when someone feels physical pain. “The results give new meaning to the idea that rejection ‘hurts'”, the study states.

As for how to deal with rejection, one may speculate that if it has a similar effect to physical pain, then perhaps it can be treated similarly to physical pain. But there are other methods. According to Guy Winch, a protagonist of TED talks, one should not take it too hard on themselves if they are rejected. It is better to instead give yourself some sensible self-criticism and reflect on what you might want to do if the situation repeats itself.

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Psychology

How Do We React To Certain Metaphors?

A new study published in Brain Research has attempted to gain a deeper understanding of metaphors: could they improve mood? Can they play a role in health aging? What about using metaphors to learn abstract concepts? The leader of the study, Vicky Lai, a professor at the University of Arizona, analyzed how and when various different areas of the brain lighted up to try to understand what effect metaphors and language has.

The study shows that understanding the meaning of a metaphor takes significantly more effort for the brain. Previously, various studies with functional NMR or MRI had shown that when someone heard a simple expression such as “this is difficult”, regions of the brain that are associated with difficulty were activated, while if someone heard a saying like “this is good”, areas of the brain associated with pleasure were activated. But hearing metaphors had a somewhat different effect.

In Lai’s study, they had recorded electrical patterns in the brain using brain waves when participants in the study had heard various metaphors, and found that when hearing metaphors, the brain was significantly slower to understand the meaning of what it heard, and the effect was different to when the participant would hear text of the same meaning but in clearer words. More work will still need to be done in this area, and with more participants.

“Understanding how the brain approaches the complexity of language allows us to start testing how it would affect other aspects of cognition,” Lai concludes.

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Categories
Psychology

Researchers Say Facial Expression Is Not The Only Cue To Read Emotion

Is facial expression the only cue we take in when reading the state of a human being? According to a study by the University of Berkeley in California, it isn’t. When it comes to reading emotions, it turns out there are many other factors, including visual context, background and action. The findings will appear later this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This study poses something of a challenge for the decades of research that has taken place before it that focused on facial expression to read emotions.

“Our study reveals that the recognition of emotions is, in the end, a matter of context as much as of faces,” says lead author Zhimin Chen, a PhD student in psychology at the Californian university. To do this study, the researchers blurred out the faces and bodies of actors in many different movies and home videos, and asked participants to read their emotions given how they were interacting with their environment.

The study was able to gather a lot of data in a short period of time. Eventually, this could be used to help interpret emotions from people with disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.

“Some people may have deficiencies in recognizing facial expressions, but they are able to recognize emotions within a context,” Chen said. “Right now, companies are developing machine learning algorithms to recognize emotions, but they only train their models in cropped faces and based on facial expression. According to this new work, these ways of studying moods would give totally inaccurate results.”

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