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Sat, 27 May 2017
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Toys

Why do we fidget?

© Angela Bragato
Fidget spinner
Hand-held toys known as "fidget spinners" - marketed as "stress relievers" - have become so popular and distracting in classrooms that they are now being banned in many schools. And it's not just kids who like to fidget. Look around your office and you will probably see people bouncing their legs up and down, turning pens over and over in their hands, chewing on things, sucking on their lower lips and pulling bits of their beard out - seemingly completely unconsciously.

But why do we fidget, and why do some people do it more than others? And if it really helps to relieve stress, does that mean we should all embrace it?

These are actually rather difficult questions to answer, as there appear to be various definitions of what fidgeting is and why it happens. However, there are some interesting, if unexpected, theories.

Black Cat 2

Cute aggression? What is that?

© Antoinette vd Rieth
Don’t you just want to hug him to death?
Humans respond to cute. Show us just about any little critter with a big round head and a pair of large, blinking-in-the-headlights eyes and cooing will ensue.

Add to that a set of chubby cheeks, a button nose and teeny-tiny pursed lips and you're almost guaranteed to elicit clucking from the average adult.

The features of cuteness have been painstakingly mapped out and collectively are known as "kindenschema", "kawaii", or the baby schema. Their appeal is near universal, applying across geographical, cultural, and even species boundaries.

The enormous eyes and button noses of Japanese manga characters provide one of the most obvious examples of kawaii preferences manifesting in popular culture - as shown below.

Beaker

'Love hormone' Oxytocin could help spread kindness between strangers

© Shutterstock/funnyangel
Love hormone injections could help us to be kinder to strangers, new research suggests
An experiment was conducted among wild grey seals given shots of the hormone oxytocin - known to forge emotional bonds between mothers and babies, and romantic partners.

Scientists found that after the jabs, newly introduced seals instantly hit it off, seeking out each other's company and keeping physically close.

Comment: To learn more about naturally producing the stress reducing hormone Oxytocin in the brain, visit the Éiriú Eolas Stress Control, Healing and Rejuvenation Program here.


Info

The human brain detects disease in others even before it breaks out

© CeiTec
The human brain is much better than previously thought at discovering and avoiding disease, a new study led by researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden reports. Our sense of vision and smell alone are enough to make us aware that someone has a disease even before it breaks out. And not only aware - we also act upon the information and avoid sick people. The study is published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The human immune system is effective at combating disease, but since it entails a great deal of energy expenditure disease avoidance should be part of our survival instinct. A new study now shows that this is indeed the case: the human brain is better than previously thought at discovering early-stage disease in others. Moreover, we also have a tendency to act upon the signals by liking infected people less than healthy ones.

"The study shows us that the human brain is actually very good at discovering this and that this discovery motivates avoidance behaviour," says principal investigator Professor Mats Olsson at Karolinska Institutet's Department of Clinical Neuroscience.

Post-It Note

Tips on overcoming confirmation bias

If you have ever heard someone say something that completely disagreed with your own understanding of a topic and immediately dismissed it as, "Oh, that can't possibly be true!" then you have been guilty of confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias is a cognitive process in which the brain unconsciously uses a system of defenses to protect you from potentially incorrect knowledge or information. The mind will automatically try to reject new information and instead seek evidence to support the current belief.

This entire process can happen in a moment, and it can be helpful in quickly identifying direct threats (scams, liars, false reports), but it can also be a hindrance when you need to fully understand a multi-faceted problem and seek potentially conflicting evidence.

Overcoming confirmation bias can be difficult, but psychologists have determined that some biases can be corrected by applying a deliberate process to problem-solving and decision-making. Try these approaches to help you neutralize your confirmation bias in daily leadership activities:

Comment: See also: Daniel Kahneman: How your cognitive biases act like optical illusions


Magic Wand

Gratitude: How it motivates us to become better people

© spineuniverse.com
Gratitude has become a hot topic in recent years. Celebrities from Oprah to James Taylor to Ariana Huffington have promoted an "attitude of gratitude," and gratitude journals, hashtags, and challenges have become immensely popular. Much of this enthusiasm has been fueled by research linking gratitude to happiness, health, and stronger relationships.

Yet there has been a backlash. Some critics and skeptics have charged that gratitude breeds self-satisfaction and acceptance of the status quo. Several articles, including a New York Times essay by journalist Barbara Ehrenreich, have recently asserted that gratitude may be selfish and self-indulgent, prompting people to feel satisfied with where they are in life rather than pursuing bigger personal goals or working to help others. The author of a piece in the Harvard Crimson argued that gratitude can "act as a form of complacency" and that the indebtedness engendered by gratitude may "get in the way of progress."

Does gratitude lead to complacency? Do all those benefits of gratitude come at a price—laziness, apathy, and the acceptance of inequities?

People 2

5 insidious phrases sociopaths and narcissists use to undermine your confidence

© Men's Health
Have you ever wondered if someone you know is a narcissist or sociopath? How do you tell the difference? First let me say that all sociopaths are narcissists, but not all narcissists are sociopaths. Confused? Let me try to explain. While there are definite similarities between the two personality types, the motives behind what they do and say are different. The sociopath wants to control every facet of your life, while the narcissist wants you to devote all of your time and attention to them.

However, both personality types will say similar things to get you where they want you. Below are 5 sentences that both narcissists and sociopaths use that make you feel like you're crazy.

1. I hate drama

They will tell you that they hate drama, but you'll soon learn that there's more drama surrounding them than anyone you've ever known. At first, they idolize you above everyone else, praising you for your perfect easy-going nature.

Family

Overscheduling kids prevents self-discovery

Are children scheduled to the max these days? Are there any waking moments that give children the freedom to express themselves in unstructured environments? Children should be allowed to get bored so they can develop their innate ability to be creative, an education expert says.

Deschoolers maintain that a child's learning should be curiosity-driven rather than dictated by teachers and textbooks, and that forcing kids to adhere to curricula quashes their natural inclination to explore and ask questions because children think differently.

Dr Teresa Belton says cultural expectations that children should be constantly active could hamper the development of their imagination.

The senior researcher at the University of East Anglia's School of Education and Lifelong Learning interviewed a number of authors, artists and scientists in her exploration of the effects of boredom.

There are activities and summer camps galore to fill children's time and supply much needed childcare when kids are out of school. But psychologists and child development experts suggest that over-scheduling children during the summer is unnecessary and could ultimately keep kids from from discovering what truly interests them.

Comment:


Chalkboard

Does living with less actually make one happier?

Will having more wealth actually make you happier? According to a number of studies an addition to your income isn't only unlikely to make you happier, but it can make those around you less happy, and you for the fear of losing it.

To explain, we must first look at a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research. Two economists, David Blanchflower of Dartmouth and Andrew Oswald of Warwick, set out to document the relation that age has to overall happiness. What they found was that as income tends to increase steadily over time, happiness follows a U-shape pattern, dipping to its lowest point at around age 45, then quickly climbing up thereafter.

A large-scale survey from the General Social Survey, which included around 20,000 men and 25,000 women of 16 years and older supports these findings. After asking Americans to rank their happiness on a 3 point scale ranging from "very happy" to "pretty happy" to "not too happy", they found a resulting average of 2.2, or just over "pretty happy". The Eurobaromoter, after conducting a similar survey on close to 400,000 men and women in 11 European countries from 1975 to 1998 found that the average self-assessed happiness score across Europe is 3 out of 4.

Bulb

7 signs that you are probably smarter than average, no IQ test required

No IQ test required, here are some hints that your intelligence might be above average.

Other studies now suggest a link between intelligence and mental illness that may go back into our evolutionary past.

The increased intelligence of Homo sapiens was originally a result of gene mutations.

The cost of these gene mutations, however, may have been an increase in mental illness (Nithianantharajah et al., 2012).

Comment: Not included in this list is the benefits of cigarette smoking. See also: Secret health benefits of Nicotine