Mind

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The problem with mindfulness

<p>Mindfulness, it seems everybody’s doing it. You might have even tried it yourself – or have a regular practice. Thanks to the help of an app on your phone that speaks to you in dulcet tones, you are reminded to “let go” and to “observe your breath”. From the public education to healthcare, the corporate world to the criminal justice system, <a href="https://www.themindfulnessinitiative.org.uk/about/mindfulness-appg">parliament</a> to the <a href="https://www.forces.net/news/meditating-mod-military-personnel-try-mindfulness">military</a>, mindfulness is promoted as a cure all for modern ills.</p> <p>Yet the evidence for the efficacy of mindfulness is not strong. In <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1745691617709589">an article published in <em>Perspectives on Psychological Science</em></a>, a number of psychologists and cognitive scientists warn that despite the hype, scientific data on mindfulness is limited. They caution:</p> <blockquote> <p>Misinformation and poor methodology associated with past studies of mindfulness may lead public consumers to be harmed, misled, and disappointed.</p> </blockquote> <p>Studies on mindfulness are known for their <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1745691617709589?journalCode=ppsa">numerous methodological and conceptual problems</a>. This includes small sample sizes, lack of control groups, and insufficient use of valid measures.</p> <p>To this list, the possibility of competing interests can also be added. In a recent <a href="https://retractionwatch.com/2019/04/17/plos-one-pulls-highly-cited-mindfulness-paper-over-undeclared-ties-other-concerns/?fbclid=IwAR2i5e2jd3R3m8z2SR0u1NUBCkOAigcK0XtqNaf7DVHlCHdVif6unX3VjAo">example</a>, the mega-journal <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0124344"><em>PLOS ONE</em> retracted</a> a meta-analysis on mindfulness after concerns were raised over the methodology behind the results, including “double counting” and “incorrect effect estimates”. The PLOS retraction also cited undeclared financial conflicts of interest by the authors. The journal noted that none of the authors agreed with the retraction.</p> <p>Despite these issues, mindfulness has never been more popular and its influence in mainstream culture is massive, as can be seen in the creation of <a href="https://www.campaign.ox.ac.uk/news/future-of-mindfulness-research-at-oxford-secured-with-new-professorship">a new professorship</a> in mindfulness and psychological science at the University of Oxford.</p> <p>The position was created by the <a href="http://oxfordmindfulness.org/">Oxford Mindfulness Centre</a>, which became affiliated with the <a href="http://oxfordmindfulness.org/about-us/about/oxford-mindfulness-foundation/">university’s Department of Psychiatry</a> in 2011, after <a href="https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/06144314/filing-history?page=4">initially</a> establishing as a private company in 2007 and later registering as a charity. It has since become a key player in shaping both the academic studies of mindfulness and the public’s perception of the practice.</p> <p><strong>A brief history of mindfulness</strong></p> <p>Mindfulness is a type of meditation derived from the Buddhist tradition. It encourages the observation of present thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations in a non-judgemental way. But how did it gain such prominence in Western mainstream culture?</p> <p>For a start, the modern concept of Buddhism that Westerners relate to today did not exist a century ago. This new style of Buddhism is known as “<a href="http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780195393521/obo-9780195393521-0041.xml">Buddhist Modernism</a>”, or “Protestant Buddhism” – a reform movement of the late 19th century.</p> <p>This form of Buddhism was developed as a result of the influence of Christian missionaries and to the colonialism and imperialism of South-East Asia by European nations. To respond to their colonial situation, the elite of the movement reshaped Buddhism by aligning it to Western science and philosophy. This was done by representing Buddhism as rational, universal and compatible with science – with an emphasis placed upon meditation and personal reflection.</p> <p>The advocates of this reform projected modern Western values onto Buddhist teachings who claimed to teach the “<a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/32886776/J_Am_Acad_Relig-2004-McMahan-897-933.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIWOWYYGZ2Y53UL3A&amp;Expires=1558635548&amp;Signature=6gNCu83q9X03bLRr0gIDWvSmFu0%3D&amp;response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3DModernity_and_the_Early_Discourse_of_Sci.pdf">pure</a>” Buddhism as taught by the historical Buddha himself.</p> <p>Contemporary meditation teachers, including Jon Kabat-Zinn (JKZ), the founder of <a href="https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/podcast/what-is-mindfulness-a-critical-religious-studies-approach/">Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction</a>(MBSR) – an eight-week programme that offers mindfulness training to help people with stress and pain – inherited and popularised this version of Buddhism.</p> <p>When pressed about the Buddhist elements of their courses, teachers such as JKZ argue the technique is not Buddhist, but the “<a href="https://www.umassmed.edu/contentassets/abf4d773534442238acf329476591dde/jkz_paper_contemporary_buddhism_2011.pdf">essence</a>” of the Buddha’s teachings. These are said to be “<a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs12671-017-0758-2">universal</a>” and compatible with science. Or as JKZ has put it, “<a href="https://www.umassmed.edu/contentassets/abf4d773534442238acf329476591dde/jkz_paper_contemporary_buddhism_2011.pdf">the Buddha himself was not a Buddhist</a>”.</p> <p>These associations with Buddhism allows advocates of mindfulness to relish the legitimacy associated with the historical Buddha – yet at the same time avoid any undesired “religious” connotations. Likewise, when mindfulness is declared as “universal” then it seems to be less about Buddhism and more about a “<a href="https://www.mindful.org/what-is-mindfulness/">basic human ability</a>”.</p> <p><strong>Science and mindfulness</strong></p> <p>The idea that mindfulness is secular because it is scientifically tested is a common strategy used by advocates of mindfulness to disassociate the practice from its religious foundation and to promote it in clinical and educational settings.</p> <p>It is <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320688499_Ethics_Transparency_and_Diversity_in_Mindfulness_Programs">well documented</a> that JKZ intentionally downplayed the Buddhist roots of mindfulness to introduce it in clinical settings. In <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14639947.2011.564844">JKZ’s own words</a>, he “bent over backward to structure it [MBSR] and find ways to speak about it that avoided as much as possible the risk of it being seen as Buddhist”. In essence then he translated Buddhist ideas into scientific and secular language.</p> <p>This approach takes advantage of the authority of science in modern Western cultures as well as the perceived opposition of “science” with “religion”. And by aligning mindfulness with science, its opposition to “religion” is implicitly conveyed.</p> <p><strong>Legitimatising mindfulness</strong></p> <p>Appealing to science and empirical studies are not the only methods that mindfulness leaders have used to lend explicit legitimacy to mindfulness. The flourish of <a href="https://www.bangor.ac.uk/mindfulness/postgraduate-courses/">MA</a> and <a href="https://www.bangor.ac.uk/mindfulness/projects.php.en">PhD</a> programmes, specific <a href="https://link.springer.com/journal/12671">journals</a>, <a href="https://www.icm2019.org/">conferences</a>, <a href="https://www.city.ac.uk/news/2019/april/launch-centre-excellence-mindfulness-research">university affiliated research centres</a> – and now the professorship – demonstrate the movement’s efforts to legitimise and secure the future of mindfulness as an academic enterprise.</p> <p>But although mindfulness claims to offer a staggering collection of possible health benefits – and aligns itself with science and academia to be seen as credible – as yet there is remarkably <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/wheres-the-proof-that-mindfulness-meditation-works1/?redirect=1">little scientific evidence</a> backing it up.</p> <p>That’s not to say a lot of people don’t find it beneficial. Indeed, <a href="https://nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/NHIS/2012/mind-body/meditation">many people practice mindfulness</a> everyday and feel it helps them in their lives. The problem is though that there is still a lot researchers do not know about mindfulness – and ultimately the field needs a much more systematic and rigorous approach to be able to support such claims.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/115648/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em>Written by <span>Masoumeh Sara Rahmani, Research Associate in Anthropology of Religion, Coventry University</span>. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://theconversation.com/the-problem-with-mindfulness-115648"><em>The Conversation</em></a><em>.</em></p>

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Want to be happier? Try getting to know yourself

<p>The unexamined life is not worth living, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_unexamined_life_is_not_worth_living">said the Greek philosopher Socrates</a>. He was reflecting on the expression “Know Thyself” – an aphorism inscribed on the <a href="https://www.ancient-greece.org/architecture/delphi-temple-of-apollo.html">temple of Apollo at Delphi</a> and one of the ultimate achievements in ancient Greece.</p> <p>While we walk around the world more or less successful in our endeavours, many of us sometimes have the nagging feeling that we don’t truly know ourselves. Why do we really feel and behave the way we do? While we have some ideas about who we are, our understanding of ourselves is often patchy and inconsistent. So, is self-knowledge something we should strive for, or are we better off living in blissful ignorance? Let’s examine the research.</p> <p>By <a href="https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/self-knowledge/">self-knowledge</a>, psychologists mean having an understanding of our feelings, motivations, thinking patterns and tendencies. These give us a stable sense of self-worth and a secure grip on our values and motivations. Without self-knowledge we cannot have an internal measure of our own worth.</p> <p>This leaves us vulnerable to accepting others’ opinions of us as truths. If a co-worker decides (and acts as if) we are worthless, we may swallow their verdict. We end up looking out to the world, rather than into ourselves, in order to know what we should feel, think and want.</p> <p>It is an advantage to learn how to recognise our feelings. The experience of sadness, for example, could be the result of bad news, but it could also be caused by a predisposition to feeling sad resulting from childhood trauma or even just the <a href="https://www.quantamagazine.org/can-microbes-encourage-altruism-20170629/">bacteria</a> in <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19490976.2018.1460015">our gut</a>. Recognising true emotions can help us to intervene in the <a href="http://atlasofemotions.org/">space between feelings and actions</a> – knowing your emotions is the first step to being in control of them, breaking negative thought patterns. Understanding our own emotions and thinking patterns can also help us more easily empathise with others.</p> <p>Self-awareness also allows us to make better decisions. In <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/20152338?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents">one study</a>, students who scored higher on “metacognitive awareness” – the ability to reflect on personal thoughts, feelings, attitudes and beliefs – tended to make more effective decisions when it came to playing a computer game in which they had to diagnose and treat virtual patients in order to cure them. The authors argued that this was because they could set more well defined goals and make strategic actions.</p> <p><strong>Getting to know yourself</strong></p> <p>So how can we learn to know how we feel? People can have different ways of thinking about themselves. We can think about our history, and how past experiences have made us who we are. But we can also brood about negative scenarios in the past or future. Some of these ways of thinking about ourselves are better for us than others. Unfortunately, many of us tend to ruminate and to worry. That is, we focus on our fears and shortcomings, and as a result we become anxious or depressed.</p> <p>The best way to start would be talking with an insightful friend or a trained therapist. The latter is especially important in cases where a lack of self-knowledge is interfering with our mental health. Putting words to feelings and being asked follow-up questions can really help us to understand who we are. Reading about <a href="https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Intuition-Pumps-and-Other-Tools-for-Thinking-Audiobook/B00CLG3RWO?source_code=M2M14DFT1BkSH082015011R&amp;ds_rl=1235779">useful ways of thinking</a> can also help us to navigate our lives better.</p> <p>In addition, there are several other traditions throughout history that have explored ways of getting to know ourselves. Both <a href="https://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/S/bo5503948.html">Stoic philosophy</a> and <a href="https://philpapers.org/rec/DUNTAU">Buddhist traditions</a> valued self-knowledge and developed practices to nurture awareness of mental states – such as meditation.</p> <p>Nowadays, mindfulness meditation has <a href="https://hbr.org/2015/12/why-google-target-and-general-mills-are-investing-in-mindfulness">gained traction</a> in psychology, medicine and neuroscience. Meditation and emotion regulation training can reduce negative feelings, rumination and anxiety. They also <a href="https://1ammce38pkj41n8xkp1iocwe-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Contemplative-emotion-training-reduces-negative-emotional-behavior-and-promotes-prosocial-responses.pdf">increase positive emotions</a>, improve the ability to recognise emotions in others, and protect us from social stress. Therapies that integrate mindfulness have been shown to be reliable in helping to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272735815000197">improve mental health</a>, specifically the outcomes of depression, stress and anxiety.</p> <p class="embed-responsive embed-responsive-16by9"><iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/95143875" width="500" height="281" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen="" mozallowfullscreen="" allowfullscreen=""></iframe> <span class="caption">Imagine sitting by the side of a busy road, with the passing cars representing your thoughts and feelings.</span></p> <p>By just sitting for a little while and watching our thoughts and feelings from a distance, as if we’re sitting by the side of the road and watching cars go by, we can get to know ourselves better. This helps us practice the skill of not thinking about the past or future, and we can be in the present a little bit more. We can learn to recognise the feelings that certain events and emotions trigger in us at the moment, and to create a space in which we can decide how to act (as some responses are more constructive than others).</p> <p>Imagine, for example, that you have plans to go for a bike ride with a friend tomorrow and you’re very much looking forward to this. In the morning, your friend cancels. Later in the day, a colleague asks you for help with a problem, and you feel annoyed and snap at them – telling them you don’t have time for it.</p> <p>Maybe you felt annoyed with the colleague, but the real reason was that you felt disappointed with your friend, and you now feel that you may not be as important to them as they are to you. If we’re more self-aware, we’re more likely to have the chance to pause and realise why we’re feeling the way we’re feeling. Rather than taking it out on our colleague, we can then realise that we are overreacting or identify whether there are any problems in our relationship with our friend.</p> <p>It is fascinating that almost 2,500 years after the construction of the temple of Apollo, the quest to know ourselves better is still equally important.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/109451/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em>Written by <span>Niia Nikolova, Postdoctoral Researcher of Psychology, University of Strathclyde</span>. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://theconversation.com/want-to-be-happier-try-getting-to-know-yourself-109451"><em>The Conversation</em></a><em>.</em></p>

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How imaginary friends from childhood can continue to affect us as adults

<p>Crabby crab is my four-year-old son Fisher’s imaginary friend. Crabby appeared on a holiday in Norway by scuttling out of his ear after a night of tears from an earache. Like other childhood imaginary friends, Crabby should be an indication that Fisher’s mind <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-imaginary-friends-could-boost-childrens-development-108525">is growing and developing positively</a>. Indeed, research shows that invisible companions can help boost children’s social skills.</p> <p>But what happens when children grow up and their imaginary friends disappear? Will Crabby have influenced Fisher into adolescence or adulthood? And what if you continue to have imaginary friends as an adult? The <a href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/imaginary-companions-and-the-children-who-create-them-9780195146295?cc=gb&amp;lang=en&amp;">vast majority of the research</a> on imaginary friends looks at young children as this is the time when these playmates are most likely to appear. But researchers have started looking into the impact of imaginary childhood friends in adolescence and adulthood.</p> <p>Imaginary friends in childhood <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/archneurpsyc/article-abstract/646325">are classified</a> as invisible beings that a child gives a mind or personality to and plays with for over three months.</p> <p>It is very rare that adults have imaginary companions. But there are a few different types of behaviour that could be considered a form of imaginary friendship. For example, adult authors can be seen as prolific creators of imaginary friends in the form of characters. That’s because their characters <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.2190/FTG3-Q9T0-7U26-5Q5">have personalities and minds of their own</a>, and authors often report their characters leading the writing rather than vice versa. Tulpas, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulpa">objects created</a> through spiritual or mental powers in mysticism, are also a sort of imaginary friend.</p> <p><strong>Social skills in adolescence</strong></p> <p>Research has shown that the positive effects of having imaginary friends as a child continue into adulthood. Adolescents who remember their imaginary playmates have been found to use <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/12097456_Dear_Kitty_you_asked_me_Imaginary_companions_and_real_friends_in_adolescence">more active coping styles</a>, such as seeking advice from loved ones rather than bottling things up inside, like their peers. Even adolescents with behavioural problems who had imaginary friends as children have been found to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20677857">have better coping skills</a> and more positive adjustment through the teenage years.</p> <p>Scientists think this could be because these teens have been able to supplement their social world with imagination rather than choosing to be involved in relationships with more difficult classmates. It could also be because the imaginary friends help to alleviate these adolescents’ loneliness.</p> <p>These teens are also are more likely to <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1997-03619-001">seek out social connections</a>. Some older research suggests that such adolescents have higher levels of psychological distress than their peers who do not remember having imaginary playmates. But the majority of research being done points to mainly positive outcomes. Current research being done now by my student, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Tori_Watson">Tori Watson</a>, is taking this evidence and looking at how adolescents who report having imaginary friends as children deal with bullying at school. We suspect that teens who remember their imaginary friends will be better at dealing with bullying.</p> <p><strong>Creativity and hallucinations</strong></p> <p>Adults who had imaginary friends, meanwhile, report that <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/47348555_The_personality_correlates_of_adults_who_had_imaginary_companions_in_childhood">they are more creative and imaginative</a> than those who did not. We also know that they are <a href="http://dro.dur.ac.uk/18217/">better at describing a scene</a> that they have constructed in their imagination. This could be because they were more imaginative to start with and/or that playing with an imaginary friend in childhood helped boost such capabilities.</p> <p>There are also other discrepancies in how adults see and interact with the world around them that scientists think stems from the use of imagination when playing with an invisible friend as a child. For example, adults who had imaginary friends <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2012-09526-001">talk to themselves more</a>. This is thought to be because they have grown up being more comfortable talking when no one else real is around. Interestingly, research has shown that talking to yourself <a href="https://theconversation.com/is-talking-to-yourself-a-sign-of-mental-illness-an-expert-delivers-her-verdict-77058">can be a sign of high cognitive functioning</a> and creativity.</p> <p>Adults who had imaginary companions as children may become used to seeing things that aren’t really there and explaining them to people. For this reason, imaginary friends have been looked at as a type of hallucination that is experienced by normally developing children. Importantly, the children know that these friends <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17995485">aren’t actually real</a>. Adults similarly can have hallucination experiences when going in or coming out of a deep sleep. We sometimes also see or hear things that aren’t there, for example in the corner of our eye – knowing it’s our mind playing tricks on us.</p> <p>My team and I recently investigated whether people who had imaginary friends as children also report more such hallucination experiences. Interestingly, our study, <a href="https://pure.hud.ac.uk/en/publications/adult-report-of-childhood-imaginary-companions-and-adversity-rela">published in Psychiatry Research</a>, found that this actually is the case. Importantly, these individuals were not a greater risk of developing psychosis or schizophrenia, they were just more likely to have common forms of hallucinations. We know that because we also tested other perceptual experiences like unusual thoughts and ideas as well as symptoms of depression. These experiences, in combination with more intense hallucinations, can put people at higher risk of developing schizophrenia.</p> <p>But people who had had imaginary friends didn’t show this combination of symptoms. There was one exception, though – individuals who had also suffered child abuse. These people were more likely to have both unusual thoughts and ideas, and depression, possibly making them more vulnerable to psychosis. It’s unclear whether this link has got anything to do with imaginary friends or whether it is all down to the trauma of having suffered child abuse, with imaginary friends instead playing a comforting role.</p> <p>So while we know a lot about childhood imaginary friends such as Crabby Crab, and the positive effects they can have, there is still a lot to learn about imaginary friends and how our childhood experiences with them might make us see the world differently.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/113064/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em>Written by <span>Paige Davis, Lecturer in Psychology, York St John University</span>. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://theconversation.com/how-imaginary-friends-from-our-childhood-can-continue-to-affect-us-as-adults-113064"><em>The Conversation</em></a><em>. </em></p>

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What you can do to resist fake news

<p>Although the term itself is not new, fake news presents a growing threat for <a href="https://qz.com/africa/1473127/africas-fake-news-problem-is-worse-than-in-the-us/">societies across the world</a>.</p> <p>Only a <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0207383" title="Information-theoretic models of deception: Modelling cooperation and diffusion in populations exposed to fake news">small amount of fake news is needed</a> to disrupt a conversation, and at extremes it can have an impact on democratic processes, <a href="https://theconversation.com/trump-may-owe-his-2016-victory-to-fake-news-new-study-suggests-91538">including elections</a>.</p> <p>But what can we do to avoid fake news, at a time when we could be waiting a while for <a href="https://en.unesco.org/fightfakenews" title="Journalism, Fake News and Disinformation: A Handbook for Journalism Education and Training">mainstream media</a> and <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2018/11/08/fake-news-is-going-to-get-worse-unless-companies-take-action-dnc-cto.html">social networks</a> to step up and <a href="https://www.marketplace.org/2018/08/24/tech/one-problem-fake-news-it-really-really-works">address the problem</a>?</p> <p>From a psychology perspective, an important step in tackling fake news is to understand why it gets into our mind. We can do this by <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-two-people-see-the-same-thing-but-have-different-memories-104327">examining how memory works</a> and <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Memory-Distortion-Brains-Societies-Reconstruct/dp/0674566769">how memories become distorted</a>.</p> <p>Using this viewpoint generates some tips you can use to work out whether you’re reading or sharing fake news – which might be handy in the coming election period.</p> <p><strong>How memory gets distorted at the source</strong></p> <p>Fake news often relies on <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/200105/the-seven-sins-memory">misattribution</a> – instances in which we can retrieve things from memory but can’t remember their source.</p> <p>Misattribution is one of the reasons advertising is so effective. We see a product and feel a pleasant sense of familiarity because we’ve encountered it before, but fail to remember that the source of the memory was an ad.</p> <p><a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/David_Rand2/publication/327866113_Prior_Exposure_Increases_Perceived_Accuracy_of_Fake_News/" title="Prior Exposure Increases Perceived Accuracy of Fake News">One study</a> examined headlines from fake news published during the 2016 US Presidential Election.</p> <p>The researchers found even one presentation of a headline (such as “Donald Trump Sent His Own Plane to Transport 200 Stranded Marines”, <a href="https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/donald-trumps-marine-airlift/">based on claims shown to be false</a>) was enough to increase belief in its content. This effect persisted for at least a week, was still found when headlines were accompanied by a factcheck warning, and even when participants suspected it might be false.</p> <p>Repeated exposure can <a href="https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/10/5/16410912/illusory-truth-fake-news-las-vegas-google-facebook">increase the sense that misinformation is true</a>. Repetition creates the perception of group consensus that can result in collective misremembering, a phenomenon called the <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-mandela-effect-and-how-your-mind-is-playing-tricks-on-you-89544">Mandela Effect</a>.</p> <p>It might be harmless when people collectively misremember something fun, such as a <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/christopherhudspeth/crazy-examples-of-the-mandela-effect-that-will-make-you-ques">childhood cartoon (did the Queen in Disney’s Snow White really NOT say “Mirror, mirror…”?)</a>. But it has serious consequences when a false sense of group consensus contributes to <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/the-signal/are-anti-vaxxers-having-a-moment/10957310">rising outbreaks of measles</a>.</p> <p>Scientists have investigated whether <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/acp.3274" title="Public Attitudes on the Ethics of Deceptively Planting False Memories to Motivate Healthy Behavior">targeted misinformation can promote healthy behaviour</a>. Dubbed false-memory diets, it is said that false memories of food experiences can encourage people to <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/11/magazine/falsememory-diet-the.html">avoid fatty foods</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3627832/" title="Queasy does it: False alcohol beliefs and memories may lead to diminished alcohol preferences">alcohol</a> and even <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25116296" title="Asparagus, a love story: healthier eating could be just a false memory away">convince them to love asparagus</a>.</p> <p>Creative people that have a strong ability to associate different words are <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Thomas_Ormerod/publication/251531367_Convergent_but_not_divergent_thinking_predicts_susceptibility_to_associative_memory_illusions/" title="Convergent, but not divergent, thinking predicts susceptibility to associative memory illusions">especially susceptible to false memories</a>. Some people might be more vulnerable than others to believe fake news, but <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/24/world/asia/pakistan-israel-khawaja-asif-fake-news-nuclear.html">everyone is at risk</a>.</p> <p><strong>How bias can reinforce fake news</strong></p> <p><a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/200105/the-seven-sins-memory">Bias</a> is how our feelings and worldview affect the <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-two-people-see-the-same-thing-but-have-different-memories-104327">encoding and retrieval of memory</a>. We might like to think of our memory as an archivist that carefully preserves events, but <a href="https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/e/9781351660020/chapters/10.4324/9781315159591-4" title="New Directions in the Philosophy of Memory">sometimes it’s more like a storyteller</a>. Memories are shaped by our beliefs and can function to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/autobiographical-memory">maintain a consistent narrative rather than an accurate record</a>.</p> <p>An example of this is selective exposure, our tendency to seek information that <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4797953/" title="Feeling Validated Versus Being Correct: A Meta-Analysis of Selective Exposure to Information">reinforces our pre-existing beliefs</a> and to avoid information that brings those beliefs into question. This effect is supported by evidence that television news audiences are <a href="https://www.journalism.org/2014/10/21/political-polarization-media-habits/">overwhelmingly partisan</a> and exist in their own echo chambers.</p> <p>It was thought that online communities exhibit the same behaviour, contributing to the spread of fake news, but this <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-myth-of-the-echo-chamber-92544">appears to be a myth</a>. Political news sites are often populated by people with <a href="https://www.academia.edu/34506137/The_Myth_of_Partisan_Selective_Exposure_A_Portrait_of_the_Online_Political_News_Audience">diverse ideological backgrounds</a> and echo chambers are <a href="https://medium.com/trust-media-and-democracy/avoiding-the-echo-chamber-about-echo-chambers-6e1f1a1a0f39">more likely to exist in real life than online</a>.</p> <p>Our brains are wired to assume things we believe <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0146167203259933" title="Evolving Informational Credentials: The (Mis)Attribution of Believable Facts to Credible Sources">originated from a credible source</a>. But are we more inclined to remember information that reinforces our beliefs? <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/247781236_Do_Attitudes_Affect_Memory_Tests_of_the_Congeniality_Hypothesis" title="Do Attitudes Affect Memory? Tests of the Congeniality Hypothesis">This is probably not the case</a>.</p> <p>People who hold strong beliefs remember things that are relevant to their beliefs but they remember opposing information too. This happens because people are motivated to defend their beliefs against opposing views.</p> <p>Belief echoes are a related phenomenon that <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-correcting-donald-trump--or-anyone-else--doesnt-work/2016/01/08/9e5ef5d4-b57d-11e5-a842-0feb51d1d124_story.html?utm_term=.912e5b8e4409">highlight the difficulty of correcting misinformation</a>. Fake news is often designed to be attention-grabbing.</p> <p>It can continue to shape people’s attitudes after it has been discredited because it produces a vivid emotional reaction and builds on our existing narratives.</p> <p>Corrections have a much smaller emotional impact, especially if they require policy details, so should be <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/258180567_Misinformation_and_Its_Correction_Continued_Influence_and_Successful_Debiasing" title="Misinformation and Its Correction Continued Influence and Successful Debiasing">designed to satisfy a similar narrative urge</a> to be effective.</p> <p><strong>Tips for resisting fake news</strong></p> <p>The way our memory works means it might be impossible to resist fake news completely.</p> <p>But one approach is to start <a href="https://qz.com/858887/how-to-know-if-fake-news-is-fake-learn-to-think-like-a-scientist/">thinking like a scientist</a>. This involves adopting a questioning attitude that is motivated by curiosity, and being aware of personal bias.</p> <p>For fake news, this might involve asking ourselves the following questions:</p> <ul> <li> <p><strong>What type of content is this?</strong> <a href="https://theconversation.com/australians-born-overseas-prefer-the-online-world-for-their-news-84355">Many people rely on social media and aggregators as their main source of news</a>. By reflecting on whether information is news, opinion or even humour, this can help consolidate information more completely into memory.</p> </li> <li> <p><strong>Where is it published?</strong> Paying attention to where information is published is crucial for encoding the source of information into memory. If something is a big deal, a wide variety of sources will discuss it, so attending to this detail is important.</p> </li> <li> <p><strong>Who benefits?</strong> Reflecting on who benefits from you believing the content helps consolidate the source of that information into memory. It can also help us reflect on our own interests and whether our personal biases are at play.</p> </li> </ul> <p>Some people <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3023545" title="Who Falls for Fake News? The Roles of Bullshit Receptivity, Overclaiming, Familiarity, and Analytic Thinking">tend to be more susceptible to fake news</a> because they are more accepting of weak claims.</p> <p>But we can strive to be more reflective in our open-mindedness by paying attention to the source of information, and questioning our own knowledge if and when we are unable to remember the context of our memories.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/114921/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em>Written by <span>Julian Matthews, Research Officer - Cognitive Neurology Lab, Monash University</span>. Republished with permission of </em><a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/how-fake-news-gets-into-our-minds-and-what-you-can-do-to-resist-it-114921" target="_blank"><em>The Conversation</em></a><em>. </em></p>

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Anger linked to illness in old age

<p>Not all negative emotions are necessarily bad. In fact, they can direct your behaviour in useful ways. If you’re stuck in traffic and running late, anger with the situation might motivate you to find an alternative route, which will then relieve your stress. But anger is less useful if you’re in the same situation, but stuck on a motorway with no option to divert.</p> <p>Emotions have physiological effects, such as raising the level of cortisol in your bloodstream, that can affect your health. Indeed, a new study, <a href="https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/pag-pag0000348.pdf">published in <em>Psychology and Aging</em></a>, shows that high levels of anger are associated with poor health in older people.</p> <p>The Canadian study recruited 226 adults aged 59-93 years. They took blood samples to assess levels of chronic low-grade inflammation and asked the participants to report any age-related chronic illnesses they might have, such as cardiovascular disease, arthritis and diabetes. The participants also completed a short questionnaire about the level of anger or sadness they experienced in three typical days over a one-week period.</p> <p>For the analysis, the researchers considered whether age could affect the results. They found that higher levels of anger were associated with inflammation and ill health in the oldest participants (aged 80 and above), but not the youngest ones (59-79 years). Sadness was not associated with inflammation or ill health in either age group.</p> <p>The study is cross-sectional, meaning that it assessed a group of people at a single point in time. To get a fuller understanding of the relationship between negative emotions and health, we need studies that follow participants for a period of time – so-called prospective observation studies. Future studies should also take into account other factors that might be involved, such as other emotions (both positive and negative), clinical depression, stress and personality.</p> <p>Although this new research shows a link between emotion and health in older age, we do not know whether anger causes inflammation and illness or whether health problems make people angrier.</p> <p><strong>Emotion and health across the lifespan</strong></p> <p>Negative emotions can help people overcome life’s challenges, but this latest research suggests that specific negative emotions work differently, particularly across different stages of life, and should be <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00380">assessed separately</a>.</p> <p>Older age is a period associated with decline, loss and reduced opportunities. If a challenge is difficult or impossible to overcome, anger may no longer be useful and may, indeed, lead to health problems. In contrast, sadness may be psychologically adaptive in older age, helping people accept loss and adjust to it.</p> <p>These findings may paint a rather negative picture of emotional experience and its effects in older age. Yet a long line of research has shown that <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0021285">older people are happier</a>. When following people over a ten-year period, positive emotional experiences are shown to increase with age, peaking at 64 and never returning to the levels observed in the average young adult.</p> <p>Perhaps central to these findings is the idea that, with increasing age, comes <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0021232">both strength and vulnerability</a>. The finding that older people are happier can be explained by age-related strengths in emotional regulation. As we age, we are better at avoiding or reducing exposure to negative situations and stress. But not all negativity can be avoided. In the case of high levels of sustained negative emotion, older adults may be more vulnerable, taking longer to overcome the physiological response.</p> <p><strong>Letting go of negative emotions and stereotypes</strong></p> <p>Negative emotions and health in older age is a <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1754073917692863">relatively new field of research</a>, but substantial research has investigated the relationships between attitudes to ageing and health outcomes. Holding negative age-related stereotypes earlier in life can predict <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02298.x">cardiovascular problems in later life</a> and brain-ageing processes <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pag0000062">associated with Alzheimer’s disease</a>.</p> <p>For example, believing that decline is inevitable may reduce the chance of a person doing what’s good for their health, such as exercising or taking their prescribed medication. So letting go of anger and other negative emotions and attitudes throughout life may be beneficial for health in later life.</p> <p>It is important that older people have opportunities to be involved in mutually beneficial <a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/ppar/prw013">intergenerational communities</a>. For example, a <a href="https://www.aarp.org/experience-corps/">programme in the US</a> brings older people into local schools to help young children learn to read. Intergenerational communities offer better social support and understanding of ageing for everyone and opportunities for older people to keep active for as long as possible.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/116550/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em>Written by <span>Louise A Brown Nicholls, Senior Lecturer, University of Strathclyde</span>. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://theconversation.com/anger-linked-to-illness-in-old-age-116550"><em>The Conversation</em></a><em>.</em></p>

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The benefits and trappings of nostalgia

<p>In his song <em>Time Was</em>, counterculture singer <a href="http://www.metrolyrics.com/time-was-lyrics-phil-ochs.html">Phil Ochs reminisces</a> about a past “when a man could build a home, have a family of his own. The peaceful years would flow; he could watch his children grow. But it was a long time ago.”</p> <p>To Ochs, simpler times were better: “troubles were few…a man could have his pride; there was justice on his side…there was truth in every day.”</p> <p><a href="http://www.allmusic.com/artist/phil-ochs-mn0000333634/biography">Ochs</a> recorded <em>Time Was </em>in 1962, when he was just 22 years old. He had yet to witness the most tumultuous parts of the 1960s – the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, the polarization wrought by the Vietnam War, and the civil rights and feminist movements.</p> <p>Half a century later – with the rapid, dramatic consequences of social and political upheaval, with technological advances that have radically transformed our daily lives – some might similarly find themselves longing for a time when “troubles were few” and “there was truth in every day.”</p> <p>Constantly being plugged into the internet and social media <a href="http://akademiai.com/doi/abs/10.1556/2006.4.2015.010">is thought to be associated with higher rates of anxiety and depression</a>. Online messaging and communication <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-news-sites-online-comments-helped-build-our-hateful-electorate-70170">have created misunderstanding and divisions</a>, and many feel as though <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/270006660_The_dark_side_of_social_networking_sites_An_exploration_of_the_relational_and_psychological_stressors_associated_with_Facebook_use_and_affordances">they’ve lost control over their privacy</a>.</p> <p><a href="https://www.prri.org/research/survey-anxiety-nostalgia-and-mistrust-findings-from-the-2015-american-values-survey/">A recent poll</a> even revealed that a majority of Americans think that America’s culture and way of life have mostly changed for the worse since the 1950s.</p> <p>But what effect does this longing have? Is it a useful psychological tool or a perilous trapping?</p> <p><strong>A bittersweet longing</strong></p> <p>In life, change is the default, not the exception; transformation is baked into every aspect of our world, from physical growth to scientific progress. Novelty, meanwhile, is an antidote to boredom, stagnation and satiation.</p> <p>Nonetheless, people long for stability. Change can threaten well-being, especially when it requires a new set of skills to meet new demands. Stress can accompany unexpected or extreme change, since our ability to control situations depends upon a reasonable degree of predictability. (Imagine not knowing if a stone would fall or rise when you let go of it.)</p> <p>Nostalgia is a bittersweet yearning for the past. It’s sweet because it allows us to momentarily relive good times; it’s bitter because we recognize that those times can never return. Longing for our own past is referred to as personal nostalgia, and preferring a distant era is termed <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/261582221_Historical_and_Personal_Nostalgia_in_Advertising_Text_The_Fin_de_siecle_Effect">historical nostalgia</a>.</p> <p>Although nostalgia is universal, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/15575331_Nostalgia_A_Psychological_Perspective">research has shown</a> that a nostalgic yearning for the past is especially likely to occur during periods of transition, like maturing into adulthood or aging into retirement. Dislocation or alienation resulting from military conflict, moving to a new country or technological progress can also elicit nostalgia.</p> <p><strong>A stabilising force</strong></p> <p>In the face of instability, our mind will reach for our positive memories of the past, <a href="https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/pollyanna-principle/">which tend to be more crystallized</a> than negative or neutral ones.</p> <p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23646885">In the past</a>, theorists tended to think of nostalgia as a bad thing – a retreat in the face of uncertainty, stress or unhappiness. In 1985, psychoanalytic theorist <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1465-5922.1985.00135.x/abstract">Roderick Peters</a> described extreme nostalgia as debilitative, something “that persists and profoundly interferes with the individual’s attempts to cope with his present circumstances.”</p> <p>But contemporary research, including my own, has contradicted this maladaptive view.</p> <p><a href="http://www.wildschut.me/Tim_Wildschut/Home_files/Sedikides,%20Wildschut,%20Routledge,%20%26%20Arndt,%202015,%20European%20Journal%20of%20Social%20Psychology.pdf">A 2015 study</a> showed that nostalgic reminiscence can be a stabilizing force. It can strengthen our sense of personal continuity, reminding us that we possess a store of powerful memories that are deeply intertwined with our identity. The person who listened to his grandpa’s stories as a little boy, played youth baseball and partied with friends in high school is still that same person today.</p> <p><a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Krystine_Batcho/publications">Research I’ve conducted since 1998</a> has shown that nostalgic memories tend to focus on our relationships, which can comfort us during stressful or difficult times. Although we’ve become independent and mature (perhaps even a bit jaded), we’re still our parents’ child, our brother’s sibling and our lover’s confidant. In developing a retrospective <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10902-010-9213-y">survey of childhood experiences</a>, I found that remembering that we experienced unconditional love as children can reassure us in the present – especially during trying times. These memories can fuel the courage to confront our fears, take reasonable risks and tackle challenges. Rather than trapping us in the past, nostalgia can liberate us from adversity by promoting personal growth.</p> <p>My studies have also shown that people with a greater propensity for nostalgia <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24027948">are better able to cope</a> with adversity and are more likely to seek emotional support, advice and practical help from others. They’re also more likely to avoid distractions that prevent them from confronting their troubles and solving problems.</p> <p><strong>Nostalgia’s fine line</strong></p> <p>But for all its benefits, nostalgia can also seduce us into retreating into a romanticized past.</p> <p>The desire to escape into the imagined, idealized world of a prior era – even one you weren’t alive for – represents a different, independent type of nostalgia called <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/261582221_Historical_and_Personal_Nostalgia_in_Advertising_Text_The_Fin_de_siecle_Effect">historical nostalgia</a>.</p> <p>Historical nostalgia is often concurrent with a deep dissatisfaction with the present and a preference for the way things were long ago. Unlike personal nostalgia, someone who experiences historical nostalgia might have a more cynical perspective of the world, one colored by pain, trauma, regret or <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10902-010-9213-y">adverse childhood experiences</a>.</p> <p>Nonetheless, from a treatment perspective, <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.2753/RPO1061-0405490306">reports suggest</a> that personal nostalgia can be used therapeutically to help individuals move beyond trauma in the aftermath of violence, exile or loss. At the same time, someone who has endured trauma, without proper treatment, could become subsumed by a malignant form of nostalgia that leads to a perpetual yearning to return to the past.</p> <p>Ultimately, when we focus on our own life experiences – falling back on our store of happy memories – nostalgia is a useful tool. It’s a way to harness the past internally to endure change – and create hope for the future.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/77766/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em>Written by <span>Krystine Batcho, Professor of Psychology, Le Moyne College</span>. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://theconversation.com/the-psychological-benefits-and-trappings-of-nostalgia-77766"><em>The Conversation</em></a><em>. </em></p>

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The reason why eye contact is so powerful

<p><span>The adage “eyes are the windows to the soul” is not a mere cliché. As one of the most prominent forms of nonverbal communication, eye contact can have significant influence on the way we socialise and process information.</span></p> <p><strong><span>Extra brain power</span></strong></p> <p><span>Have you ever met the gaze of a dog or a monkey? You may get the impression that they are a smart, conscious being that is capable of judging you. This may not be far off – direct gaze indicates “<a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0146167216669124">sophisticated human-like minds</a>” which are capable of social interaction, making us more aware of the other’s agency. </span></p> <p><span>When we lock gazes with someone, our brain immediately engages in a series of activities to take in the fact that we are dealing with the mind of the person who is looking at us. These processes turn out to draw on the same mental resources we use for complex tasks, making it more difficult to perform cognitive functions – such as <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.3758/s13423-016-1097-3">memorising facts</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25071645">imagining visuals</a> and <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0010027709002984#fig1">focusing on relevant information</a> – at the same time. </span></p> <p><span>A <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27750156">2016 Japanese study</a> found that people performed worse in a verbal word test when they were instructed to look into another person’s eyes on a screen. This shows how maintaining eye contact can drain our mental bandwidth.</span></p> <p><strong><span>Bonding and social cues</span></strong></p> <p><span>Eye contact also has significant impacts on how we perceive each other. We assume people who make eye contact with us to be more <a href="https://digest.bps.org.uk/2016/11/28/the-psychology-of-eye-contact-digested/">sociable</a>, <a href="https://digest.bps.org.uk/2014/07/22/the-psychology-of-first-impressions-digested/">intelligent</a>, trustworthy, and <a href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886996001481">conscientious</a>. We also tend to believe these people to have more self-control and be <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00221309.2018.1469465">more similar to us</a> in terms of personality and appearance.</span></p> <p><span>However, locking eyes should also be done in moderation. A British <a href="https://digest.bps.org.uk/2016/07/07/psychologists-have-identified-the-length-of-eye-contact-that-people-find-most-comfortable/">study</a> discovered that people on average are most comfortable with eye contact that lasts for three seconds.</span></p> <p><span>Because of this, it’s no wonder that many people think of eye contact as a form of intimacy. As windows to our souls, the eyes allow us to get a glimpse into other people’s minds – but it also gives away what’s inside of ours. </span></p>

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Should you stop kissing your pets?

<p><span>Giving your cat a peck or letting your dog kiss you on the mouth may be a part of your everyday routine. For many pet owners, this habit may seem like one of the many ways to show your affection to each other. However, common sense rebukes this as an unhygienic practice that may make the human sick.</span></p> <p><span>So, what are the real risks of giving your pooch a smooch?   </span></p> <p><strong><span>The risks</span></strong></p> <p><span>Pets’ mouths and noses may have ventured to questionable places, such as litter boxes, trash bins or the bottom of other pets. Because of this, they may carry bacteria, viruses, parasites and germs all over their body from scratching and licking. </span></p> <p><span>Viruses tend to affect one species and not the other – so you are unlikely to be affected by your pets’ cough. However, others can still play a part in transmitting zoonotic diseases to the owners. These may include:</span></p> <ul> <li>Parasites: <span>Hookworm, roundworm, Toxoplasma gondii and giardia</span></li> <li>Bacteria: Salmonella, E coli, Staphylococcus, Campylobacter and more</li> <li>Ringworm: <span>Fungal infection on the skin or scalp</span></li> </ul> <p><span>The effects of these harmful organisms range from stomach pain and fever to infections and birth defects. </span></p> <p><span>Experts say these illnesses won’t typically be serious – however, people with weak immune systems are more likely to be affected, with higher risks of contracting diseases and experiencing complications. </span></p> <p><span>This is why young children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with lower or compromised immune systems – including organ transplant recipients, people on cancer treatment – are advised to avoid kissing pets.</span></p> <p><strong><span>How to stay safe</span></strong></p> <p><span>Wash your hands after coming into contact with pets, pet food or pet bodily fluids such as saliva and waste. </span></p> <p><span>Wherever possible, make sure that your mouth, nose and eyes stay clean. According to Mia L Geisinger, associate professor and director of the Advanced Education Program in Periodontology at the University of Alabama, the permeable mucous membranes in these areas are <a href="https://www.self.com/story/kissing-pet-health-effects">more vulnerable to germs</a> from your pets.</span></p> <p><span>Keep vaccinations up to date, and don’t forget to treat your pets for parasites and fleas regularly. </span></p>

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What is brain freeze?

<p><strong>What is brain freeze? – Question from the students of Ms Young’s Grade 5/6 class, Baden Powell College, Victoria, Australia.</strong></p> <p>Many of us have probably gobbled up an ice cream and perhaps <em>too quickly</em>.</p> <p>After doing this, you may have been unlucky enough to get an intense squeezing or stabbing sensation on your forehead, your temples or the back of your head. This is brain freeze, also known as an “ice cream headache”.</p> <p>“So” you say, feeling smart, “brain freeze is just a kind of headache! <a href="https://theconversation.com/curious-kids-what-is-a-headache-is-it-our-brain-hurting-112951">I already know all about those</a>”.</p> <p>You are, of course, correct. But brain freeze is a bit weird. While it’s true that you do put ice-cream inside your head to eat it (your mouth is technically part of your head), you don’t typically put it into the parts of your head that hurt when you experience brain freeze. To put ice-cream into your forehead or temples would be a very weird surgical procedure that I do not advise you to try at home or anywhere else.</p> <p><strong>So why do your forehead and temples (or even the back of your head) hurt when you put ice cream in your mouth too fast?</strong></p> <p>There are several different ideas as to why, but the answer definitely has something to do with what happens when we cool down the roof of our mouth.</p> <p>When you cool down the roof of your mouth, the coldness is picked up by nerve cells that live there and whose job it is to detect cold. This information about coldness is sent to your brain via a nerve. When the roof of your mouth is very cold, these cells (and so this nerve) will be very active.</p> <p>Now, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trigeminal_nerve#Spinal_trigeminal_nucleus">this nerve also contains information from other cells</a>, including the ones that detect cold and painful stimuli from other parts of your head, including your very face.</p> <p>It <em>may</em> be (we’re honestly not sure) that when the cells that sense cold in the roof of your mouth are very active, this <em>somehow</em> also activates the bits of the brain that are usually activated by the face cells. As a result, the cold fools your brain into thinking that your forehead hurts.</p> <p>Another possibility is that, as delicious icy treats quickly cool down our tongues and mouths, it actually cools the blood in blood vessels that supply blood to your head. These blood vessels respond by changing how much blood flows into your brain. Only a few scientists have actually tried to measure this, and those that have don’t even agree about whether there is <a href="https://www.fasebj.org/doi/abs/10.1096/fasebj.26.1_supplement.685.4">more</a> or <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2127417/">less</a> blood going into your head. Everyone, however, agrees that it hurts.</p> <p>It may be some combination of these two things: that activation of nerves causes a change in how much blood is going into your head. It might even be <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1555929">both things together!</a></p> <p><strong>Why don’t we know how brain freeze works?</strong></p> <p>Here’s the thing about science: “what is brain freeze” is a fantastic question for a curious scientist to ask, but to get the answer, scientists need to convince other people (politicians, other scientists and members of the public) that they should be given the time and money to answer that question.</p> <p>Unfortunately, the availability of time and money are not as boundless as the curiosity of scientists.</p> <p>The result of all this is that sometimes, simple and beautiful questions like “what is brain freeze?” don’t get as much attention as other questions that might seem more pressing.</p> <p>Instead, these beautiful questions fall away, like a scoop of ice cream loosened by an enthusiastic but careless scientist who may not have the time or resources to investigate brain freeze in the lab, but excitedly discusses it with a friend over an ice cream anyway. My advice? Stay curious. Eat ice cream. Slowly.</p> <p><em>Written by <span>David Farmer, Researcher, University of Melbourne</span>. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://theconversation.com/curious-kids-what-is-brain-freeze-112774"><em>The Conversation</em></a><em>. </em></p>

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How to survive a stroke

<p><span>When a stroke happens, acting fast is crucial to survival. As the second most common cause of death in New Zealand, stroke interrupts blood supply to the brain, preventing brain cells from accessing oxygen and nutrients and damaging the brain tissue in the process. </span></p> <p><span>According to <a href="https://www.rush.edu/health-wellness/discover-health/surviving-stroke">Rush University Medical Center</a>, 1.9 million brain cells die every minute a stroke goes untreated, increasing the risk of brain damage, disability and death. </span></p> <p><span>The sooner a person receives treatment for stroke, the better the outcome. However, a lack of awareness of early stroke symptoms means that more people may miss out on getting prompt medical attention.</span></p> <p><strong><span>How to recognise the signs of stroke</span></strong></p> <p><span>Not all strokes are sudden and incapacitating – the signs can be subtler than commonly expected. The Stroke Foundation recommends using the FAST test to recognise the main symptoms of stroke:</span></p> <ul> <li>Face: Has their face drooped?</li> <li>Arms: Can they lift both arms? Does one arm drift downward?</li> <li>Speech: Is their speech slurred, and do they understand you?</li> <li>Time: Time is critical. Call the ambulance as soon as you see any of these signs.</li> </ul> <p><span>Other signs of stroke may include:</span></p> <ul> <li>Weakness and/or numbness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body</li> <li>Blurred or loss of vision in one or both eyes</li> <li>Sudden dizziness, loss of balance or coordination</li> </ul> <p><strong><span>What to do</span></strong></p> <p><span>Should you notice any symptoms on yourself or others, call 111 immediately. </span></p> <p><span>Avoid driving yourself to the hospital – while this may seem like a quicker option, lifesaving treatment begins in the ambulance. Paramedics and ambulance workers can screen you on the way and ensure you get the necessary drugs and the most suitable procedures at the emergency department.</span></p> <p><strong><span>Who is at risk?</span></strong></p> <p><span>According to the <a href="https://brainfoundation.org.au/disorders/stroke/#strokeaffectaustralians">Brain Foundation</a>, the risk of stroke may increase for:</span></p> <ul> <li>People with a family history of stroke</li> <li>People with risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or obesity</li> <li>Smokers and heavy alcohol drinkers</li> <li>People aged 45 and above</li> </ul> <p><span>Stroke <a href="https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/stroke-prevention">can be prevented</a> with a low-fat, high-fibre diet, regular exercise and avoidance of smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.</span></p>

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The blockbuster drug that could prevent Alzheimer's – why has it been kept secret?

<p>A pharmaceutical company discovered that its drug could prevent Alzheimer’s disease, but kept the finding under the radar for four years, it has been revealed.</p> <p>The<span> </span><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/pfizer-had-clues-its-blockbuster-drug-could-prevent-alzheimers-why-didnt-it-tell-the-world/2019/06/04/9092e08a-7a61-11e9-8bb7-0fc796cf2ec0_story.html?utm_term=.8c9fa2c71406" target="_blank">Washington Post</a> </em>reported that American pharmaceutical company Pfizer chose not to publish its finding that its anti-inflammatory drug Enbrel, which is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, “could potentially safely prevent, treat and slow progression of Alzheimer’s disease”.</p> <p>In 2015, a team of researchers inside the company found that Enbrel appeared to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 64 per cent based on an analysis of hundreds of thousands of insurance claims. Researchers in the inflammation and immunology division urged Pfizer to conduct a clinical trial to verify the drug’s efficacy, which is estimated to cost US$80 million.</p> <p>“Enbrel could potentially safely prevent, treat and slow progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” read an internal company document dated February 2018.</p> <p>However, after three years of internal reviews, Pfizer decided against making the data public. The company said the likelihood of a successful clinical trial is low, as the drug does not directly reach brain tissue.</p> <p>According to company spokesperson Ed Harnaga, the decision was solely based on the fact that the findings failed to meet “rigorous scientific standards”.</p> <p>Pfizer said the data was not made public because it might mislead outside scientists.</p> <p>However, researchers said the company should at least make the findings available to a broader audience. “It would benefit the scientific community to have that data out there,” said Keenan Walker, an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins.</p> <p>“Whether it was positive data or negative data, it gives us more information to make better informed decisions.”</p> <p>Bobbie Farsides, professor of clinical and biomedical ethics at Brighton and Sussex Medical School in London said Pfizer has a responsibility to disclose the positive side effect of the drug. “Having acquired the knowledge, refusing to disclose it to those who might act upon it hides a potential benefit, and thereby wrongs and probably harms those at risk of developing Alzheimer’s by impeding research.”</p> <p>The difficulty of getting regulatory approval to use a drug for a completely different disease may also play a part in the company’s decision to keep the findings a secret, said Robert Field, a professor of law and health care management at Drexel University. He admitted that it is “frustrating that there may be a missed opportunity”.</p> <p>Alzheimer’s remains one of the most prevalent diseases among the ageing community. No clear cause, effective cure or preventive measure has been found for the disease so far.</p>

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How to help your memory now and avoid future memory problems

<p>It is possible to help your memory now to avoid memory problems in the future. There are a lot of causes of memory problems, some we can do something about, others we need to be aware of.</p> <p>I met up with my good friend Margaret the other day for a cup of tea and catchup.  It was great to see her again and we were discussing how our various other friends were getting along.</p> <p>She told me that she had recently noticed some of her friends had started to become forgetful in one way or another.  One of her friends, Sarah, had a fall in her own home. It was just a little fall, but serious enough to result in a broken hip. Now she is in hospital after having hip surgery. Margaret told me that when she went to visit Sarah in hospital, she did not recognise her at all.  It appeared that her memory had been affected somehow by her hip surgery.  Had it been the anaesthetics that were used during surgery?  She is only 69 years old.</p> <p>Margaret noticed another one of her friends, Olive, was also getting very forgetful. On one occasion, Olive was driving home from an afternoon of shopping and had got lost driving back to her own home. Olive has been living in the same house for 20 years. Extremely distressed she called her daughter who had located where her mother was and picked her up in her own car and drove her home.</p> <p>If memory problems are ignored or dismissed, they do get worse and over a long period of time, I believe they may lead to early Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Alzheimer’s disease or dementia used to be an older person’s disease, but now it is striking those aged under 65 years – younger onset dementia is affecting some even in their 30’s and 40’s.</p> <p><strong>Lifestyle and health conditions</strong></p> <p>I believe one of the many reasons why this is happening is due our modern lifestyle. The foods we eat are heavily processed, with many additives, colouring, preservatives, flavouring and extra sugar and salt added. When it comes to drinks, a lot of people do not drink much water at all. Their preferred drinks are usually sugary soft drinks or artificially sweetened ‘diet’ drinks and packaged juices. This type of eating habit together with a lack of exercise due to sitting at the computer or watching television for hours is definitely going to have adverse effects on your brain health.</p> <p>There are also many health conditions that are causes of memory problems. Each one of us has a unique set of health conditions and/or weaknesses. When you experience any signs or symptoms, they are signals from your body to let you know that something is not quite right and you should do something about it. When these health symptoms are ignored, they don’t go away, they usually get worse over time.</p> <p>Our health is vitally important. Good health is one thing that we take for granted until we get sick. Then all we want to do is get better again, as quick as possible.</p> <p><strong>Your signs and symptoms </strong></p> <p>Now that you understand that both your lifestyle and various health conditions are causes of memory problems, you can start to take preventive action. The solution for you is to really pay attention to the signs and symptoms you are experiencing.  Your body will let you know. Are you getting heart palpitations? Do you get dizzy? Do you have an upset stomach after eating a particular food? Do you get tightness in your neck when you are stressed? Do you get breathless walking up a hill? These and many more, are clues to help you to pay attention and do something about it and not to ignore these signs and symptoms.</p> <p><strong>7 helpful tips</strong></p> <p>Here are 7 tips to help you to look after your memory and brain health:</p> <ol> <li>Be more aware of any signs or symptoms that you are experiencing – these are important clues from your body.</li> <li>Sit down and write a list of all the signs and symptoms that you have noticed.</li> <li>Which of these signs and symptoms have been around the longest?</li> <li>Which of these have worsened over time?</li> <li>Do something about these symptoms. Visit your doctor or health professional for their advice and assistance to resolve these.</li> <li>Check out your pantry and look at the ingredients list on the packaged foods and drinks. If you see (950), (951), (621) or Fructose, then avoid those products as these ingredients are harming your brain health.</li> <li>Have short breaks when at the computer or watching television and go for a walk. Your memory and your brain health depend on you – so start today!</li> </ol> <p><a href="https://www.smartbrainhealthcentre.com.au/"><em>Louise Hallinan</em></a><em> is an international award-winning author of </em>Smart Brain, Healthy Brain<em>, a natural medicine practitioner and founder of the Smart Brain Health Centre which specialises in helping Baby Boomers and Generation X mothers avoid the risk of dementia.</em></p>

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Are you a good person? Psychologists outline the traits of "everyday saints"

<p><span>We have long been intrigued by the darker side of human psyche – look no further than our culture’s unwavering interest in serial killers, true crime and the morbid. </span></p> <p><span>In early 2000s, psychologists identified the trio of traits known as the “dark triad”: psychopathy (callousness and cynicism), narcissism (entitled self-importance) and Machiavellianism (tendency to exploit and manipulate). Since then, these antisocial traits have continued to become the focus of both academic research and public attention.</span></p> <p><span>However, Scott Barry Kaufman, a psychologist at Columbia University decided to look in another direction.</span></p> <p><span>“The dark triad and the dark side of our nature is an area that people keep on talking about over and over again,” he told the <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2019-05-16/psychopaths-narcissm-the-dark-triad-fascinate-us-the-light-triad/11093104"><em>ABC</em></a>. “I wanted to see if there was anything interesting about people who are not arseholes.”</span></p> <p><span>After testing <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00467/full?utm_source=S-TWT&amp;utm_medium=SNET&amp;utm_campaign=ECO_FPSYG_XXXXXXXX_auto-dlvrit">more than 1,500 people</a> of varying ages, genders, races and ethnicities, Kaufman and his colleagues proposed “light triad”, the three characteristics that best demonstrate the lighter side of the human nature.</span></p> <p><span>These three good personality traits are Kantianism (treating people as ends unto themselves rather than mere means), humanism (valuing the dignity and worth of each individual person), and faith in humanity (belief in the fundamental goodness of people).</span></p> <p><span>They are not necessarily the inverse of the dark triad – instead, there is a little bit of both light and dark in every one of us, the researchers said. “The absence of darkness does not necessarily indicate the presence of light,” the authors write in their paper. </span></p> <p><span>“There appears to be some degree of independence between the Light and Dark Triad, leaving room for people to have a mix of both light and dark traits.”</span></p> <p><span>Kaufman said it is important to examine what makes a “good” person in today’s world.</span></p> <p><span>“Yes, everyday psychopaths exist,” Kaufman wrote on <a href="https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/the-light-triad-vs-dark-triad-of-personality/?redirect=1"><em>Scientific American</em></a><em>.</em> “But so do everyday saints, and they are just as worthy of research attention and cultivation in a society that sometimes forgets that not only is there goodness in the world, but there is also goodness in each of us as well.”</span></p> <p><span>Even if you are tilted towards the dark side, it can still change, said Nick Haslam, a personality researcher at University of Melbourne. He said personality is not fixed throughout our lifetime. “Personality is not some mysterious thing lurking deep within the soul, it's just is the way you tend to behave. There is lots and lots of evidence that these things can change.”</span></p> <p><span>Want to know where your personality lies on the spectrum? Take the Light Triad Scale test <a href="https://scottbarrykaufman.com/lighttriadscale/">here</a>.</span></p>

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Less than 1 per cent of people can solve these puzzles

<p><span>Consider yourself a puzzle master? Challenge yourself with this mind-bending test.</span></p> <p><span>The Puzzled Out quiz was tested on 2,000 people to see how well they can spot the missing pattern in pictures while racing against time. </span></p> <p><span>Players have to tackle 10 questions, each with a 10-second timer.</span></p> <p><span>Less than one per cent got all the answers correct. Could you be one of them?</span></p> <div class="test-app" style="width: 100%; height: 600px; margin: 0 auto; background: #fff; position: relative;"><iframe data-url="https://www.buzzbingo.com/bingo-games/puzzled-out/#embed" src="https://www.buzzbingo.com/bingo-games/puzzled-out/#embed" style="position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; border: 1px solid #ccc;"></iframe></div> <div class="meframe"></div> <p> </p> <div><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.buzzbingo.com/bingo-games/puzzled-out/" target="_blank">Puzzled Out</a> by <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.buzzbingo.com" target="_blank">Buzz Bingo</a></div> <p> </p> <p><span>According to the quiz creator <a href="https://www.buzzbingo.com/bingo-games/puzzled-out/">Buzz Bingo</a>, some demographics performed better in finding the missing puzzle pieces. People aged 18 to 25 picked the correct answer in 52.6 per cent of the pictures compared to people aged over 65 with 34.9 per cent.</span></p> <p><span>Those who regularly partake in brain teasers also scored more highly. Those who often do exercises such as sudoku and crosswords picking 45.1 per cent of the pictures correctly compared to non-partakers at 38.5 per cent.</span></p>

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The world's sexiest accent has been revealed

<p><span>When it comes to accents, is Newzild among the world’s sexiest? Apparently so, according to a new global survey.</span></p> <p><span>Travel media company Big 7 Travel polled its readers across the globe on the world’s sexiest accent – and an unexpected candidate has come out on top of the list. </span></p> <p><span>The “outrageously charming” New Zealand has taken the crown as the world’s sexiest accent, beating out other accents from over 7,000 languages.</span></p> <p><span>“The ‘Newzild’ dialect is outrageously charming. The sexiest accent in the world? It’s official,” said the website.</span></p> <p><span>“To a novice ear, the New Zealand accent might sound just like the Australian accent.”</span></p> <p><span>Despite this, Australian only came in fifth. “Pronouncing words long and slow – and often skipping the ends of them completely – is a real turn on apparently.”</span></p> <p><span>Other accents that made the top ten were South African, Irish, Italian, Scottish, French, Spanish, South USA and Brazilian Portuguese.</span></p> <p><span>Different variations of the British accent also made the top 50, including Queen’s English at number 12, Mancunian at #18, Geordie at #41 and Welsh at #45.</span></p> <p><span>A number of American accents were also found to be popular, with the Boston accent taking the 28<sup>th</sup> spot and the “fast and hypernasal” New York coming in at number 44.</span></p> <p><span>See the full list of the top 50 sexiest accents <a href="https://bigseventravel.com/2019/04/worlds-sexiest-accent/">here</a>.</span></p>

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Why putting down your phone could help you live longer

<p><span>Having a smartphone can bring about a great dilemma – a lot has been said about the dangers of spending time on our devices, but putting them away is still easier said than done. </span></p> <p><span>A look into hormones could explain why phones can be simultaneously stimulating for your mind and harmful for your health.</span></p> <p><span>A growing body of evidence suggests that smartphones have detrimental effects on our sleep, memory, attention spans, <a href="https://variety.com/2018/digital/news/smartphone-addiction-study-check-phones-52-times-daily-1203028454/">mental health</a>, <a href="https://hbr.org/2018/03/having-your-smartphone-nearby-takes-a-toll-on-your-thinking">problem-solving skills</a>, and more. But if that’s not enough, the <a href="https://thenewdaily.com.au/life/science/2019/05/01/phone-stress-health-problems/"><em>New York Times</em></a> has reported that keeping our phones close may be increasing our stress levels and, consequently, shortening our lives.</span></p> <p><span>Most studies on smartphone use have focused on the way phones and apps are designed to encourage the production of dopamine, a brain chemical that plays an important role in motivating behaviours, habits and addictions. </span></p> <p><span>The release of dopamine from using phones and apps makes it more difficult for us to put our devices down. This has been acknowledged by Chamath Palihapitiya, a former executive at the world’s biggest social media site Facebook.</span></p> <p><span>“I feel tremendous guilt,” said Palihapitiya in a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMotykw0SIk">2017 talk</a>. “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works.”</span></p> <p><span>But apart from dopamine, phones can also stimulate cortisol spikes. Known as the stress hormone, cortisol triggers physiological responses such as increase in blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar. </span></p> <p><span>While cortisol may help regulate the hormone balance in your body in response to perceived threats – for example, bear attacks – its continuous release from anticipating notifications on your device may not be as beneficial. Chronically elevated cortisol levels have been associated with various health problems, from weight gain, metabolic issues and fragile skin to depression, heart attack, dementia and stroke. </span></p> <p><span>“Every chronic disease we know of is exacerbated by stress,” said Dr Robert Lustig, emeritus professor in paediatric endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco, and author of <em>The Hacking of the American Mind</em>.</span></p> <p><span>“And our phones are absolutely contributing to this.”</span></p> <p><span>This was also supported by David Greenfield, PhD, founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction. “Smartphones put us in an ever-increasing state of hyper-vigilance, where we’re always feeling compelled to check our calls, texts, social media alerts, email, and more,” he told <a href="https://www.menshealth.com/health/a19530834/how-smartphones-stress-you-out/"><em>Men’s Health</em></a>. “This keeps the adrenals constantly activated and cortisol levels elevated.”</span></p> <p><span>So how could we reduce our phone use and recover our health? Keeping your gadget out of sight might be one of the options – according to a <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/keeping-your-smartphone-nearby-may-not-be-so-smart-2017080212163">study</a> published in the <em>Journal of the Association for Consumer Research</em>, leaving your device in another room instead of on the desk could improve your focus and reduce distraction through the absence of stressor.</span></p> <p><span>Turning off notifications will also make your phone less stressful, as will hiding or deleting apps. </span></p> <p><span>Paying attention to physical reactions is also important, said Dr Judson Brewer, director of research and innovation at the Mindfulness Centre at Brown University and author of <em>The Craving Mind</em>. He told the <em>Times </em>that stress and anxiety could manifest in the form of chest contraction. “If we’re not aware of our physical sensations, we’re not going to change our behaviours,” he said. Paying attention to the sensations you are feeling when using a particular app could help you identify ways to rebalance your body chemicals.</span></p>

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Why do we have a QWERTY keyboard?

<p><em>"Why are the letters on the keyboard not in alphabetical order??" – Baker, age 9, Arrowtown, New Zealand.</em></p> <p>Great question! That question really puzzled me when I was a kid. And so as a grown-up, I decided to research it and write a <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S002073738480070X">paper</a> about it.</p> <p>Let’s turn the clock back. About 150 years ago, all letters and business papers were written by hand. Most likely they were written using a pen that had to be dipped in ink every word or two. Writing was slow and messy.</p> <p>Then some clever inventors built a machine for typing. The first typewriters were big heavy metal machines that worked a bit like a piano.</p> <p>Have you ever seen the inside of a real piano? You press a key and some clever levers make a felt hammer hit just the right piano string to make a note.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe width="440" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/XlcZ7WGRbJw?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em><span class="caption">Inside a piano.</span></em></p> <p>Early typewriters were similar. They had all these levers with a metal alphabet letter at the end of it. You had to press a letter key quite hard to make the metal lever fly across and hit the paper. Hit the A key and the A lever would hit the paper and type A. The paper then shifted a bit to the left, so the next key would hit in just the right place next to the A. Press more keys and you could type a word, or even a whole book.</p> <p>The first machine had the letter keys in alphabetical order. The trouble was that if you hit two keys quickly the levers would jam. Jams were most likely when the two keys were close together on the keyboard. Rearranging the letters could reduce jams.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe width="440" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/WEyCINkkR-Q?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em><span class="caption">Rearranging the letters reduced the risk that two levers would jam.</span></em></p> <p><a href="http://www.typewritermuseum.org/history/inventors_sholes.html">Christopher Sholes</a> was an American inventor who was most successful in reducing jams. He tried various arrangements, always trying to reduce the need to type two keys that were close together. The best arrangement he could find was similar to the QWERTY keyboard we all use today. (Look at the top row of a keyboard to see why it’s called QWERTY.)</p> <p>He sold his invention to the Remington Company in the United States. In the 1870s, that company built and sold the first commercially successful typewriters. They used the QWERTY keyboard.</p> <p>For 100 years or so after the Remington typewriter arrived, vast numbers of people all over the world <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Wgu5hnrAnI">trained to become touch typists</a> (meaning they could type even without looking much at the keyboard). They were employed to type letters and all other kinds of things for business and government. Because so many people became so skilled at using QWERTY, it became very difficult to get everyone to change to any other key arrangement.</p> <p>Many other key arrangements have been tried. Some are claimed to be easier to learn or faster to use than QWERTY. But none has proved good enough to beat QWERTY. It seems that we are stuck with this layout, even if jams are no longer a problem.</p> <p>QWERTY was developed for the English language. Some other languages use variations. For example, AZERTY is commonly used for French, QWERTZ for German, and QZERTY for Italian. Perhaps you can find someone from India, Thailand, Japan, Korea, or China. Ask them to show you the keyboard they use in their language.</p> <p><strong>You’ll never regret being able to touch type</strong></p> <p>Now, on any keyboard, feel the F and J keys carefully and find some tiny bumps. Place your first fingers on those keys, and your other fingers along the same row. Your left fingers should be on ASDF and your right on JKL;. These are called the “home keys”.</p> <p>Keep your fingers resting lightly on the home keys. Type other letters by moving just one finger up or down and perhaps a little sideways. Learn how to do that quickly, without watching your fingers, and you can touch type!</p> <p>When I was a teenager, I owned a typewriter. I made a cardboard shield to stop me seeing my fingers as I typed. I used clothes pegs to fix it to the typewriter. Then I found a touch-typing book and started to practise, making sure that I kept my fingers on the home keys and always used the correct finger to type each letter. After lots of practice, I could touch type. I love being able to touch type. It has helped me all my life, first as a student, then in everything I have done since.</p> <p>Now with computers it’s easier than ever to learn to touch type, even if QWERTY at first seems strange. There’s lots of good software to help (your school may have some), some of it feeling like a game.</p> <p>Find software that you like, and put in some practice. It may seem hard at first, but persist and you will soon get good at it. Find a friend or two and do it together. Perhaps make it a competition. You’ll never regret being able to touch type.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/116069/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em>Written by <span>Geoff Cumming, Emeritus Professor, La Trobe University</span>. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://theconversation.com/curious-kids-why-do-we-have-a-qwerty-keyboard-instead-of-putting-the-letters-in-alphabetical-order-116069"><em>The Conversation</em></a><em>.</em></p>

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Not just for babies: Study reveals adults sleep better with rocking

<p><span>Sometimes, no tricks would help in getting a baby to sleep other than rocking them. Now, a new <a href="https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(18)31662-2?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS0960982218316622%3Fshowall%3Dtrue">study</a> has found that the same approach still works for the grown-ups.</span></p> <p><span>“Having a good night’s sleep means falling asleep rapidly and then staying asleep during the whole night,” said Laurence Bayer, co-author of the study from the University of Geneva, Switzerland in a statement.</span></p> <p><span>“Our volunteers – even if they were all good sleepers – fell asleep more rapidly when rocked and had longer periods of deeper sleep associated with fewer arousals during the night. We thus show that rocking is good for sleep.”</span></p> <p><span>In the study, 18 participants were asked to spend a night sleeping in the laboratory. Half of them rested on a rocking bed that was moving on a gentle arc of 10.5 centimetres, while the rest slept on a stationary bed. Their brain activities throughout the night were recorded and monitored with an electroencephalogram (EEG).</span></p> <p><span>Those who slept on the rocking bed were found to not only sleep more deeply and wake up less, but they also performed better on the morning memory test than those who spent the night on a normal bed.</span></p> <p><span>“This increase in overnight memory accuracy was supported by a decrease in the number of errors and an increase in the number of correct responses only during the rocking night,” the researchers wrote.</span></p> <p><span>The method has been proven on animals, too. In another <a href="https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(18)31608-7?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS0960982218316087%3Fshowall%3Dtrue">study</a>, Dr Paul Franken from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland experimented rocking mice to sleep. Although “mice had to be rocked four times faster than humans”, the motion was found to help mice fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.</span></p> <p>The two studies “provide new insights into the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying the effects of rocking stimulation on sleep”, wrote Bayer and co-author Aurore Perrault. The findings may be used in development of new treatment approaches for people with insomnia and mood disorders as well as older people, who often experience poor sleep and memory impairment.</p>

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4 life changing TED Talks

<p><span>Hearing words of inspiration and enlightenment can be truly empowering – which explains why TED Talks have amassed so many fans across the world. Here are some of the best TED Talks that people say have transformed their perspectives and changed their lives.</span></p> <p><strong><em><span>My year of saying yes to everything</span></em><span> by Shonda Rhimes</span></strong></p> <div style="max-width: 854px;"> <div style="position: relative; height: 0; padding-bottom: 56.25%;"><iframe src="https://embed.ted.com/talks/lang/en/shonda_rhimes_my_year_of_saying_yes_to_everything" width="854" height="480" style="position: absolute; left: 0; top: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%;" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></div> </div> <p><span>Television titan Shonda Rhimes may be one of the world’s busiest women – but when work started to define her, her decision to say “yes” to the things that scared her turned out to enrich her life in unexpected ways and help her find fulfilment outside of her career.</span></p> <p><strong><em><span>The power of vulnerability </span></em><span>by Brené Brown </span></strong></p> <div style="max-width: 854px;"> <div style="position: relative; height: 0; padding-bottom: 56.25%;"><iframe src="https://embed.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability" width="854" height="480" style="position: absolute; left: 0; top: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%;" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></div> </div> <p><span>Shame and vulnerability might seem like a weakness in today’s world, but author and researcher Brené Brown argued that they are essential in enabling us to love, empathise and belong. “In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen,” she said.</span></p> <p><strong><em><span>The art of asking</span></em><span> by Amanda Palmer</span></strong></p> <div style="max-width: 854px;"> <div style="position: relative; height: 0; padding-bottom: 56.25%;"><iframe src="https://embed.ted.com/talks/amanda_palmer_the_art_of_asking" width="854" height="480" style="position: absolute; left: 0; top: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%;" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></div> </div> <p><span>Ever felt hesitant to ask for a favour? Musician Amanda Palmer made an argument for forgoing shame, opening up and expressing your needs. “Through the very act of asking people, I'd connected with them, and when you connect with them, people want to help you,” said Palmer. “When we really see each other, we want to help each other.”</span></p> <p><strong><em><span>The danger of a single story</span></em><span> by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie</span></strong></p> <div style="max-width: 854px;"> <div style="position: relative; height: 0; padding-bottom: 56.25%;"><iframe src="https://embed.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story" width="854" height="480" style="position: absolute; left: 0; top: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%;" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></div> </div> <p><span>Putting ourselves in other people’s shoes is often easier said than done, especially when we only know what Adichie described as “the single story”. In this talk, the Nigerian author emphasised the importance of narratives as a way to connect and empathise with other people, as well as to humanise and empower the stigmatised.</span></p>

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