Don't touch the red button, or don't touch that chocolate cake while I'm gone. Why is it that we most likely will touch them anyway?
Gifts are Enjoyed More When It’s Not a Holiday
For the western world, the essence of a good gift is at heart it’s intention. In other words, why did you give the gift? If it is a cultural ritual or celebration, such as Christmas to Christian families, experts say that the gifts received aren’t enjoyed nearly as much as when they are given on other occasions. But that’s good news! Sending a simple and appropriate thank you gift like great seats at a basketball game, congratulations flowers for a new born baby, or even a simple postcard saying “I’m thinking of you” will certainly brighten up their day and be well enjoyed.
The trend of gift cards prove this since it’s truly the thought that counts, gift cards are reportedly least enjoyed gift. If you are thinking a gift card for convenience, perhaps think a little more creatively. Sometimes the hardest people to buy for are the easiest. Here’s a scenario: your elderly mom may never like a new sweater or a fresh candle, and she’ll have no use for the gift card unless she makes an effort to use it. But if she buys groceries – and everyone nearly does. So buy her something that she could use that’s a step-above the normal product that she’d buy for herself.
For example, if she’s used to buying herself store-brand coffee, pick up a bag of coffee from your favorite coffee shop instead. Or, since she’s likely to always buy soap – take a look on etsy.com for a handmade equivalent.
Facts Aren't Enough: The Psychology Of False Beliefs
The belief that vaccines cause autism has persisted, even though the facts paint an entirely different story.
In 2012, as a new mom, Maranda Dynda heard a story from her midwife that she couldn't get out of her head. The midwife told her that years earlier, something bad had happened after she vaccinated her son. One minute he was fine, and the next, he was autistic. It was like "the light had left his eyes," Maranda recalled her saying. The midwife implored Maranda to go online and do her own research. So she did.
She started on Google. It led her to Facebook groups, where other moms echoed what the midwife had said.
"And they were just practically bombarding me with information," says Maranda. "Telling me, 'Your midwife's right. This is why I don't vaccinate. This is what happened to my child who I did vaccinate versus my child who I didn't vaccinate.' Things like that."
Maranda trusted them. She says it wasn't long before she had decided she wasn't going to vaccinate her child, either.
Eventually, she did more research and realized that the purported link between vaccines and autism wasn't real. She changed her mind, and vaccinated her daughter. But looking back, she can't believe how easy it was to embrace beliefs that were false.
"It is so, so easy to Google 'What if this happens' and find something that's probably not true," Maranda says. "Don't do that."
This week on Hidden Brain, we look at how we rely on the people we trust to shape our beliefs, and why facts aren't always enough to change our minds.
Hidden Brain is hosted by Shankar Vedantam and produced by Parth Shah, Jennifer Schmidt, Rhaina Cohen, Thomas Lu and Laura Kwerel. Our supervising producer is Tara Boyle. You can also follow us on Twitter @hiddenbrain.
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Law and order keep us safe and under control.For the most part, we can all get along with that.This ad will help us to keep our system running
So, what is it in our psychology that makes some people content with obedience, while others shun the whole idea? Obedience and obeying the rules seem like second nature to most of us. We navigate our entire lives within the confines of the rules set by our parents, our schools, our jobs, and our country. This is not a bad thing, despite what the class clowns might want you to think.
There are a whole host of reasons for why we obey.
These extend from a fear of punishment to truly believing in what we’re told to do.
These reasons can be personal or very general, based on our natural human psychology. This theory on the psychology of obedience highlights our desire to avoid change. Traditionally we tend to stick with rules and routines that we’re used to. We obey rules that are ingrained in society because deviating might mean losing what we’ve already established. We feel we have less to lose if we obey the rules. This is because our lives will stay the same when we don’t deviate from tradition. Just like choosing the same meal in a restaurant with every visit, we simply try to avoid regret. This is called Loss Aversion. We’re also victims of the Mere Exposure Effect. This theory suggests that we choose obedience simply because we’ve been exposed to it. This suggests that psychological obedience is actually created environmentally. If our parents and friends are obedient people, we usually are too. We know we’re being watched. Sometimes, our obedience isn’t psychological at all. We may disagree with the rules. We may wish we were behaving differently. Unfortunately, the presence of CCTV cameras means we typically do our best to obey the rules.
The risk of being caught in the act is too great when we know we could be seen. When we fear punishment, we obey the rules. Authority figures have this kind of power.
The psychological element of this kind of obedience is the anxiety we feel when it comes to consequences. We are terrified of being scolded. We dread having our luxuries taken away. If we disobey at work, we lose our job. Similarly, our obedience can be influenced by Reward Power. In this case, we obey the rules and demands of others because we want to be rewarded. This could be praise, a raise, or even awards. Psychologically, rewards can even be more influential on our willingness to obey than the fear of punishment. Psychologists hold that The Agentic State is a mind-space we enter which influences our obedience. This especially applies when the order or rule we’ve been given is not something we like. We shift into this state to put blame on those who gave the orders, rather than ourselves. A real-life application of this psychological state is seen in those who commit terrible crimes. Psychologists first noticed this phenomenon during the trials of officers who worked under Hitler.
These Nazi officers would use the “I was only doing as I was told” excuse to justify their part in such heinous crimes.
The agentic state allowed them to hide behind their superiors, and genuinely believed they were blameless, despite carrying out monstrous acts. By convincing ourselves that we wouldn’t be to blame, we’re much more likely to obey even the evilest of commands. When we crave popularity or acceptance into a group, we’ll do whatever it takes. Back in school, the “popular kids” tended to be the ones who broke the rules.
They skipped class, drank alcohol and took drugs.
They disobeyed most rules set by teachers and parents, and they were adored for it. Especially in our teenage years, rebellion is considered desirable. It shows courage and a laid-back attitude that draws attention. With this theory, all the psychology that goes into obedience flies out of the window. If we wanted to be liked by the “coolest” of our peers, we had to disobey. Right and wrong weren’t factors. Education is a strong factor in the psychology of disobedience. Simply put, the more naïve you are, the more likely you are to follow without thinking. With intelligence comes the ability to review rules, and especially government policies, for yourself.
The rise in protests and acts of defiance around the world recently can be blamed on new knowledge.
These are known as acts of Civil Disobedience.
These rule-breaking, and sometimes law-breaking, protests are the result of education. As we become more knowledgeable about matters of climate change or social justice, we begin to realize that our rules and laws are incorrect. We try to rise up and get noticed by politicians, who we feel aren’t as educated on certain matters. In order to have these injustices rectified, we have to break some rules. As the saying goes, you cannot make an omelet without first breaking some eggs. Psychologically, we feel our knowledge outranks the traditional hierarchies. This can include parent to child, teacher to student, or citizen to government. Consider the story of Robin Hood. Steal from the rich, give to the poor. This is an obvious act of disobedience theft is a crime. However, we can often justify our actions if we think we’ve done them for the greater good. If your family is poor and starving, is it okay to steal bread to feed them? If you’re under threat, is self-defense a valid excuse for murder? Sometimes, we believe we must do something bad in order to rectify wrongdoing. This could be to ourselves personally, or on behalf of society as a whole. R.
Kids should make some decisions – but not all
Let’s think about learning. When you are six, you are learning new things every day. I’m sure that if you think back to only a year ago you will realise how much you have changed! Many of those annoying rules that you worry about are there to help you to focus on learning and playing and having fun.
Without rules, you would have a lot of decisions to make every day. Too many decisions would get in the way of your learning and make you feel overloaded. Being in charge of a lot of decisions can sometimes be quite stressful and can sometimes make people feel worried and anxious. This is why it’s important to allow kids to make some decisions – but not all of them.
I also mentioned safety. While I am sure that you are very smart, there are a lot of things you don’t know about the world yet. These are the things that you will learn from now until you are a grown up, like how to drive a car, who to trust and how to spend your money wisely.
Until you know all these things, the rules are there to keep you safe. The rules make sure people always know where you are, that you won’t get hurt and that you get what you need to be happy and healthy in life.
Why we should exercise - and why we don't
If the benefits of physical activity are legion, so are the reasons for avoiding it. We've got suggestions for adding some to your day.
You already know that exercise is good for you. What you may not know is just how good — or exactly what qualifies as exercise. That's what this issue of the Health Letter is all about. The notion that physical activity helps keep us healthy is very old news indeed. Hippocrates wrote about the dangers of too little activity (and too much food). Tai chi, an exercise system of graceful movements that originated in China, dates from the 12th century B.C. Yoga's roots in India go back much further.
But old ideas aren't necessarily good ones, or have much evidence to back them up. This isn't a problem for exercise — or physical activity, the term many researchers prefer because it's more of a catchall. A deluge of studies have documented its health benefits. Many are observational, which always pose the problem of showing associations (people who exercise happen to be healthy) not proof of cause and effect (it's the exercise that makes those people healthy). But after statistical adjustments, these studies suggest that the connection between exercise and health is more than just an association. Besides, results from randomized clinical trials, which are usually seen as making the case for causality, also point to exercise making people healthier.
What's impressive about this research, aside from the sheer volume, is the number of conditions exercise seems to prevent, ameliorate, or delay.
We're used to hearing about exercise fending off heart attacks. The American Heart Association promulgated the country's first set of exercise guidelines in 1972. And it's not hard to envision why exercise helps the heart. If you're physically active, your heart gets trained to beat slower and stronger, so it needs less oxygen to function well your arteries get springier, so they push your blood along better and your levels of "good" HDL cholesterol go up.
It's also not much of a surprise that physical activity helps prevent diabetes. Muscles that are used to working stay more receptive to insulin, the hormone that ushers blood sugar into cells, so in fit individuals blood sugar levels aren't as likely to creep up.
But exercise as a soldier in the war against cancer? It seems to be, and on several fronts: breast, colon, endometrial, perhaps ovarian. The effect of physical activity on breast cancer prevention may be stronger after menopause than before, although some research suggests that it takes quite a lot to make a difference: four to seven hours of moderate to vigorous activity a week. Three studies have found that if you've had colon cancer or breast cancer, physical activity reduces the chances of it coming back.
To top things off, moving the body seems to help the brain. Several studies have found that exercise can reduce the symptoms of depression, and it changes the brain in ways similar to antidepressant medications. In old age, physical activity may delay the slide of cognitive decline into dementia, and even once that process has started, exercise can improve certain aspects of thinking.
Easy to avoid
We have to eat, so following nutritional advice is a matter of making choices. Swap out saturated fats for healthy oils. Eat whole grains instead of refined carbohydrates.
But in this day and age, many (perhaps most) people don't need to be physically active unless they choose to be. And most evidence suggests that the choice of the kind of activity is far less important than whether to be active at all. About half of adult Americans don't meet one of the most oft-cited guidelines, which calls for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (a fast walking pace) most days of the week — and you can accumulate that total in bouts of 10 to 15 minutes. About a quarter of American adults say they devote none of their free time to active pursuits.
Clearly some of us are less athletic than others — and some unathletic individuals were simply born that way. Twin studies suggest that about half of the difference in physical activity among people is probably inherited. And researchers are making headway in identifying particular genes that may influence how we respond to physical exertion. For example, they've identified some of the genes responsible for variation in the beta-agonist receptors in the lungs. How your lungs and heart react to strenuous exercise depends, in part, on those receptors.
But genetic explanations for behaviors like exercising only go so far. Many other influences come into play: family, neighborhood, cultural attitudes, historical circumstances. Research has shown, not surprisingly, that active children are more likely to have parents who encouraged them to be that way. Perceptions of how active parents are also seem to matter. The safety and layout of neighborhoods is a factor, particularly for children. In a dangerous place, having children stay home and watch television instead of going to the park to play might be the healthier choice simply because it's safer.
The trip of a thousand miles begins.
In addition to getting at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week we should also resistance training to build up muscle strength twice a week. But some exercise, even if it is pretty minimal, is better than none, particularly among people who are very sedentary.
So in that spirit, we've made 27 suggestions for ways to become a little bit more physically active.
1. Take the far away spot. Walking from the farthest corner of the parking lot will burn a few calories. If it's a parking garage, head for the roof and use the stairs.
2. Walk to the next stop. If you take a bus or train, don't wait at the nearest stop. Walk to the next one. Or, at the end of your journey, get off a stop early and finish up on foot.
3. Hang loose. During your bus or train trip, stand and don't hold on too tightly. You'll improve your sense of balance and build up your "core" back and abdominal muscles.
4. Get into the swing of it. Swinging your arms when you walk will help you reach the brisk pace of 3 to 4 miles per hour that is the most healthful.
5. Walk and talk. If you are a member of a book group, propose 15 to 20 minutes of peripatetic discussion of the book before you sit down and chat.
6. Walk while you watch. Soccer moms, dads, and grandparents can circle the field several times during a game and not miss a single play.
7. Walk tall. Maintaining good posture — chest out, shoulders square but relaxed, stomach in — will help keep your back and abdominal muscles in shape. Besides, you'll just look a whole lot healthier if you don't slouch (mom was right).
8. Adopt someone as your walking, jogging, or biking buddy. Adding a social element to exercise helps many people stick with it.
9. That buddy might have four legs. Several studies have shown that dog owners get more exercise than the canine-less.
10. Be part of the fun. Adults shouldn't miss a chance to jump into the fray if kids are playing on a playground or splashing around in the water. Climbing on the jungle gym (be careful!) and swinging on a swing will strengthen muscles and bones and set a good example.
11. Dine al fresco. Tired of eating at home? Skip the restaurant meal, which tends to be heavy on the calories. Pack a picnic. You'll burn calories looking for the best spot and carrying the picnic basket.
12. Put on your dancing shoes. Exercise doesn't have to be done in a straight line. Dancing can get your heart going and helps with balance. Dance classes tend to have lower dropout rates than gyms. Or just turn up the volume at home and boogie.
13. Wash and dry the dishes by hand. The drying alone is a mini-workout for the arms.
14. Don't use an electric can opener. It's good for your hand, wrist, and arm muscles to use a traditional opener. For the same reason, peel and chop your own vegetables and avoid the precut versions.
15. Clean house. Even if you have a cleaning service, you can take responsibility for vacuuming a couple of rooms yourself. Fifteen minutes burns around 80 calories. Wash some windows and do some dusting and you've got a pretty decent workout — and a cleaner house.
16. Hide that remote. Channel surfing can add hours to screen time. If you have to get up to change the channel, you are more likely to turn it off and maybe do something else that's less sedentary.
17. Go swimmingly somewhere. Swimming is great exercise if you have arthritis because the water supports your weight, taking the load off of joints. The humid air around a pool sometimes makes breathing more comfortable for people with lung problems.
18. Take a walk on the waterside. Even people who can't, or don't like to, swim can get a good workout by walking through the water. Try walking fast, and you'll get cardiovascular benefits. Walking in water is a great way to rehabilitate if you're recovering from an injury and certain types of surgery because the water acts as a spotter, holding you up.
19. Don't e-mail. In the office, get out of your chair, walk down the hallway, and talk to the person. At home, write an old-fashioned letter and walk to a mailbox — and not the nearest one — to mail it.
20. Stand up when you're on the phone. Breaking up long periods of sitting has metabolic benefits. Even standing for a minute or two can help.
21. Grow a garden. No matter how green the thumb, the digging, the planting, the weeding, and the picking will ramp up your activity level and exercise sundry muscles.
22. Use a push mower. Even if you have a large lawn, pick a small part of it to mow in the old-fashioned way. You get a nice workout, you're not burning any gas, and it's usually quieter. The same reasoning favors the rake over the leaf blower.
23. Think small. Small bouts of activity are better than knocking yourself out with a workout that will be hard to replicate.
24. Be a stair master. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator whenever you can. It's good for your legs and knees, and your cardiovascular health will benefit from the little bit of huffing and puffing. Don't overdo. One flight at a time.
25. Stairs tip #2. You'll give the gluteal muscles a nice little workout if you can climb up two stairs at a time.
26. Stairs tip #3. You can give your calf muscles a nice little stretch by putting the ball of the foot on the stair and lowering your heel.
Why We Do What We Do: The Psychology of Motivation
It’s a force which causes us to grab hold of – and drop – new habits, behaviors, and actions and it influences everything we do each and every day.
If you ever hope to understand why we do what we do and want to learn how to influence your behavior to live a better life, one where you’re in control, then you need to understand one basic principle: pain vs. pleasure (and the power of resistance).
The secret of success if learning how to use pain and pleasure instead of having pain and pleasure use you. If you do that, you’re in control of your life. If you don’t, life controls you.
The idea of pain and pleasure as basic human motivators was first made popular by Sigmund Freud in 1895, although it was philosopher Epicurus around 300 B.C. who first commented on the role of these principles in human life, stating that, “nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure.”
Since then, Tony Robbins has become an especially notable proponent of the importance of understanding and mastering this basic aspect of human psychology, so much so that he chose it as the subject of his 2006 TED talk. If you’ve heard the phrase “pain and pleasure” before, it’s likely due to him.
So then, what’s so important about pain and pleasure? And how does it impact our life?
How pain and pleasure affects our life
In any given moment, we’re influenced to stay away from the things that make us feel pain while being driven to do the things that give us a sense of pleasure. At its heart, this is the foundation of what motivates us. And the implications of this are huge.
Examples of ways this influences our life include:
- Staying away from healthy foods like veggies that aren’t as enjoyable to eat as unhealthy food like fast food, making us overweight and at risk of several serious diseases
- Refraining from establishing new positive habits because of the pain we experience when trying to step out of our usual routine, keeping us from making real progress
- Holding us back from our dreams and goals because the short-term pain of taking action and removing distractions is more immediate and noticeable than the long-term pleasure of realizing those dreams and goals
And these are just a few examples of the way that pain and pleasure can influence our life. In reality, this concept reaches into every area of our life– whether we like it or not.
So if it’s so important, the next obvious question is: can we do anything about it? Fortunately, the answer is yes.
How to use pain and pleasure to your advantage
Just as pain and pleasure influence our life automatically without us knowing it, we can take control of these factors and influence them to our benefit instead.
But how do you do that? By minimizing the appearance of pain and, more importantly, magnifying the pleasure or appearance of pleasure. The reality is that pain guides our actions more often than not, and it’s one of the biggest reasons why we don’t follow through with our goals or establish new habits.
If you can take something and magnify the pleasure involved with performing it, you’ll “tip the scales” so to speak and make it more likely that you’ll follow through with the positive action instead of freezing or running from pain.
Going back to our examples, here’s how you can take advantage of this:
- PLEASURE: Record yourself or write down how you feel when you eat healthier. Note your increased energy and how great you feel and try to describe a specific experience you remember in the past when you were eating healthier and what that allowed you to do.
- PLEASURE: Describe in detail how a new habit would change your life, use descriptive emotions and list benefits
- PAIN: Paint a picture visually in your mind or write down what your life would look like if you never accomplished your goals. Imagine yourself on your deathbed regretting having never stood up and taken action.
- PLEASURE (Opposite version of the above, similarly effective): Imagine what your life would look like, and how you’d feel, if you were to accomplish your major dreams and goals. By very descriptive and list details.
Either method, whether using pain or pleasure, is effective. They can even be used in conjunction to fully take advantage of the principle. And make sure that you list down how you feel in each example as emotions are the gateway to these feelings of pain and pleasure and your key to utilizing them.
Pain and pleasure are powerful forces throughout our entire life, whether we like it or not. Luckily, with a little practice and some insight, you can learn how to use these principles to your advantage and drive positive change in your life more effectively than ever before.
6. I’m not like the other people in the group
As a newcomer, it’s easy to look around at established members of a group and assume that they all share a similar worldview. In reality, that’s unlikely. It’s only by engaging with a community that we shatter the utopian dream of living and working with people “just like ourselves”. “In true community,” says Palmer, “there will be enough diversity and conflict to shake loose our need to make the world in our own image.”
The Psychology Behind Why People Don't Recycle
The benefits of recycling seem straightforward. The practice reduces waste sent to landfills, conserves natural resources, reduces pollution and creates jobs. And the majority of Americans do recycle. sometimes.
Far fewer, however, do it consistently.
“Recycling is a behavior,” Brian Iacoviello, an assistant psychiatry professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City told The Huffington Post. “Much like exercising or eating healthily, people often engage in this behavior less than they ‘should.’”
Indeed, according to a 2011 Ipsos Public Affairs survey, only half of adults recycle daily. Another third of respondents said they recycle less frequently than that, and a full 13 percent revealed that they never recycle.
Because the reward for recycling (saving the earth) and the repercussions for infrequently recycling (damaging the environment) aren’t necessarily immediate, it can be hard for people to make the association between their daily habits and those habits’ consequences.
“It’s that true paradox,” said Jessica Nolan, an associate psychology professor at the University of Scranton. “Individual behavior is both essential and inconsequential.”
Nolan, who previously worked as a municipal recycling director and who researches environmental problems from a social perspective, said that identifying a community’s barriers to recycling is an important first step toward increasing participation.
While different communities and demographics have different barriers to recycling ― and thus require unique recycling solutions to overcome them ― here are the top reasons people said they don’t recycle more:
The primary excuse people gave for not recycling was that recycling wasn’t convenient or accessible to them.
“Obviously if the infrastructure is not there, you can’t expect people to participate in a program that doesn’t exist,” Nolan said. “We know that convenience is one of the strongest predictors of whether or not somebody will participate in the available recycling program.”
According to The Economist, about a quarter of Americans don’t have access to curbside recycling, meaning they have to take the extra step of dropping their cans and bottles at a recycling center if they want to participate.
Of course, how people answer a survey isn’t necessarily a reliable indicator of whether or not services are available to them. While doing an informal survey of college students in Arkansas, Nolan noticed that individuals from the same town sometimes answered differently about whether or not a recycling program existed in their hometown.
“If you’re not interested, you might think you have no recycling program, but in fact you do,” she said. “If there’s a drop off center, you wouldn’t see it unless you went looking for it.”
HuffPost combined the reasons people said they don’t recycle into three clear “types,” then asked the experts what can be done to convert them:
Don’t Touch The Red Button! — And Why We Always Do
I mean it. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen if you do, because honestly, we really have no idea. Now, I’m going to leave the room for just a second, then I’ll be back, okay? Just don’t touch the red button. Alright, I’ll only be a minute.”
Dialogue like this (or similar versions of it) is found pretty frequently in science fiction or fantasy. It isn’t always a button, either: the “red button” is pretty much anything one character tells another not to do. We see this in real life, too. From schools to stores to jobs, there are almost always rules that end up completely shattered because people didn’t follow them.
Activities that are completely undesirable become tempting as soon as you aren’t allowed to participate in them. The most exclusive colleges are the ones more people try to get into. Things that you aren’t allowed to touch become almost magnetic. So why exactly do we feel the complete urge to do something as soon as we’re told we can’t?
Well, like almost everything in life, we can chalk this up to a couple big factors: our intense curiosity and our desire for dopamine rushes (which actually end up being almost the same thing!). However, there is also a lot of psychology involved in both responses, so let’s take a look at a deeper analysis of each.