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Sun, 25 Feb 2018
The World for People who Think

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Children spend less time outside than the average prisoner

children playing
Prisoners the world over are characteristically defined by their inability to move freely. Inmates at the Wabash maximum security prison in Indiana, however, were recently shocked to learn about one group that enjoys less time outdoors than they do: children.

A global survey conducted on children's time outdoors quickly became an ongoing campaign called "Dirt is Good" after the findings showed a concerning lack of outdoor playtime among children aged five to twelve. The results of the survey, commissioned by British laundry company Persil and conducted by an independent market research firm, revealed ⅓ of British children spend 30 minutes or less outside every day — and that one in five does not play outside at all on an average day. The researchers surveyed 12,000 parents spanning 10 countries: the United States, Brazil, U.K., Turkey, Portugal, South Africa, Vietnam, China, Indonesia, and India.

Comment: Read more about the importance of reconnecting children with the outside world


Intentional mind-wandering can promote creative thinking and problem solving

 mind wandering, daydreaming
There are two types of mind wandering — each with a different experience.

Mind wandering tends to be seen in a negative way, but zoning out on purpose can help creative thinking and problems solving.

Now a new study identifies a vital difference between intentional and unintentional mind wandering.

It reveals how intentional mind wandering feels different from accidental mind wandering.

Comment: Taking time out for mind-wandering or daydreaming can broaden your attention and help to make creative connections between ideas, which does not happen when you are over-focused on a problem. Creative people often use daydreaming as 'creative incubation', knowing from experience that the best ideas come seemingly out of the blue when our minds are elsewhere.

Spacing out and goofing off can open the door to creativity


Successful dying: researchers define the elements of a 'good death'

Holding hands
© UCLan
For most people, the culmination of a good life is a "good death," though what that means exactly is a matter of considerable consternation. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine surveyed published, English-language, peer-reviewed reports of qualitative and quantitative studies defining a "good death," ultimately identifying 11 core themes associated with dying well.

The findings are published in the April 2016 issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

The research team, headed by senior author Dilip Jeste, MD, Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences and director of the Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging at UC San Diego School of Medicine, focused on three groups of stakeholders: patients, family members (before or during bereavement) and health care providers.

"This is the first time that data from all of the involved parties have been put together," said Jeste, who is also associate dean for healthy aging and senior care at UC San Diego School of Medicine. "Death is obviously a controversial topic. People don't like to talk about it in detail, but we should. It's important to speak honestly and transparently about what kind of death each of us would prefer."

The literature search culled through 32 qualifying studies. It identified 11 core themes of good death: preferences for a specific dying process, pain-free status, religiosity/spirituality, emotional well-being, life completion, treatment preferences, dignity, family, quality of life, relationship with the health care provider and "other."


The surprising ways weather affects our mood and behavior

child sunny weather, mood
Weather can be sunny, stormy, dreary or unpredictable but then so, too, can your mood. The way you feel on any given day may actually be intricately tied to the weather forecast in ways science is only beginning to understand.

Many people are now aware that spending time outdoors on a sunny day, and allowing the sun to shine on your bare skin, is necessary for your body to produce vitamin D, which also plays a role in serotonin production.

Serotonin, the brain hormone associated with mood elevation, rises with exposure to bright light and falls with decreased sun exposure. This is one reason why bright-light therapy is so effective for treating people with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is sometimes referred to as 'winter depression.'

This is only the tip of the iceberg, however. A sunny day can make you feel inexplicably happy, but only if you can frolic outdoors. People who are stuck indoors on a sunny day may feel their mood plummet, and the weather also has significant (and often subconscious) effects on behavior and more.


Birds of a feather do flock together, according to latest study

group dynamics
© bst2012 / Fotolia
A new study on group dynamics found that individuals were likely to join groups containing members with similar physical traits -- including levels of attractiveness. The researchers also discovered that attractive women were the most likely to be placed in the physical center of social groups.
New psychology research led out of New Zealand's University of Otago is backing up the old saying that "birds of a feather flock together." The findings emerged after researchers used high-definition video cameras on the roof of a large covered stadium to track and analyze how strangers formed groups.

They found that individuals were likely to join groups containing members with similar physical traits -- including levels of attractiveness. The researchers also discovered that attractive women were the most likely to be placed in the physical center of social groups.

These are the first findings from a unique social psychology experiment using Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, New Zealand as a giant laboratory. The study appears in the journal PLOS ONE and involved researchers at the University of Otago; the University of Oxford, UK; the University of Maryland, USA; and Dunedin company Animation Research Ltd (ARL).

Comment: Opposites don't attract: We're hard-wired to seek out similarity in relationships


Television and the social and intellectual dumbing-down of young children

baby watching tv
It is common for parents to feel that their children are spending too much time in front of the television set. According to a Canadian study, children who watch an excessive amount of television exhibit a multitude of negative side effects including poor language and social skills, and increased bullying.

The 2013 study was set out to determine whether or not viewing television at 29 months (about 2.5 years) was associated with school performance at 65 months (about 5.5 years).

The study, which was conducted on 991 girls and 1,006 boys with parent and teacher reported data, came to this conclusion:
"Increases in total time watching television at 29 months were associated with subsequent decreases in vocabulary and math skills, classroom engagement (which is largely determined by attention skills), victimization by classmates, and physical prowess at kindergarten. These prospective associations, independent of key potential co-founders, suggest the need for better parental awareness and compliance with existing viewing recommendations put forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)."

Comment: This information should be common sense, but alas....


The way we move our bodies is a signature of our inherent personality traits

body movement research
© Patrick Aventurier via Getty Images
Infrared cameras are used to study body movements at Euromov research center at Montpellier University in France. A new study suggests that people who display similar behavioral characteristics tend to move their bodies in the same way.
The way we move can offer a surprising level of insight into our personalities, according to new research.

A team of European researchers recently found that each of us has an "individual motor signature" — and this signature forms a blueprint for mapping out subtle differences in our movements compared to others, Dr. Krasimira Tsaneva-Atanasova, a professor of mathematics for health care at the University of Exeter in England and a co-author of the research, told The Huffington Post.

While the mechanics of human movement on a broad level has been well-studied, scientists have paid less attention to individual differences in movement, until now.

"We show that different individuals have different motor signatures," she said. "In other words, individuals could be classified based on the way they move."

Namely, the extent to which your movements are similar to another person's can determine how easily you can coordinate with that person and how similar your behaviors are.


Grammar Nazi, friend or foe? Why typos and spelling mistakes bug people

grammar nazis
John F. Kennedy was a notoriously bad speller. His wife, Jackie, was a very good speller, and frequently pointed out his mistakes, something First Ladies are supposed to do when their husbands show signs of illiteracy.

John's tawdry writing was a constant source of embarrassment for Jackie. She was a stickler, he wasn't. They argued a lot about spelling and typos which, apparently, drove Kennedy into the arms of other notoriously bad spellers like Marilyn Monroe.

It's interesting that all of Monroe's lovers were bad spellers (except Arthur Miller, who was pretty good, but as Monroe's maid revealed, Miller spent more time writing than giving Marilyn the business, whereas, Kennedy spent more time giving Marilyn the business than writing).

Martha Gellhorn, third wife of Ernest Hemingway, wasn't crazy about Ernie's spelling and typos, either. She called him "Bug" which might suggest his spelling 'bugged' her.

Hemingway wasn't as bad as Kennedy, but he was still pretty sloppy. Editors frequently chastised him for his typos and spelling mistakes. He responded by telling them that's what they were paid to do.


Can happiness affect your cellular structure?

There is an irrefutable argument in favor of happiness: Happiness and good health go hand-in-hand and scientific studies have been finding that happiness can make our hearts healthier, our immune systems stronger, and our lives longer through enhancements of our cellular structure.

Dr Derek Cox, Director of Public Health at Dumfries and Galloway NHS, suspects that for decades health professionals have been missing a big trick in improving the health of the nation.

"We've spent years saying that giving up smoking could be the single most important thing that we could do for the health of the nation.

"And yet there is mounting evidence that happiness might be at least as powerful a predictor, if not a more powerful predictor than some of the other lifestyle factors that we talk about in terms of cigarette smoking, diet, physical activity and those kind of things."

The science of happiness is increasingly suggesting a link between happiness and health.

Comment: Our genes respond positively to the right kind of happiness

Life Preserver

Study shows people are capable of changing multiple dimensions of their life simultaneously

© puhhha / Fotolia
UCSB students involved in a six-week study on multifaceted life changes did yoga on campus
Let's say you've decided to make some changes in your life. You're out of shape, your mind wanders, your self-esteem is wavering, and you have no idea what you just read. So you decide to focus on one thing -- losing weight, maybe -- and tackle the other issues later. You don't want to take on too much at once, right?

A new paper by researchers at UC Santa Barbara, however, suggests you're selling yourself short. "Pushing the Limits: Cognitive, Affective & Neural Plasticity Revealed by an Intensive Multifaceted Intervention," published this week in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, strongly suggests that we have seriously underestimated our ability to change our lives for the better.

Michael Mrazek, director of research at UCSB's Center for Mindfulness & Human Potential and lead author of the paper, said the six-week study from which the paper is drawn demonstrates that simultaneous, significant improvement across a broad range of mental and physical functions is possible. Participants in the intervention all showed dramatic improvements in more than a dozen different outcomes, including strength, endurance, flexibility, working memory, standardized test performance, focus, mood, self-esteem, mindfulness and life satisfaction.