Psychology

A little bit of stress apparently lasts a long time, say neuroscientists from the University of Washington.  They have found that a single exposure to uncontrollable stress impairs decision making in rats for several days, making them unable to reliably seek out the larger of two rewards. 

The research was presented  at a press conference on "Our Stressed Out Brains" during the Society for Neuroscience's annual meeting by Lauren Jones, a UW psychology doctoral student. 

Jones, working with Jeansok Kim, a UW associate professor of psychology, found that stressed rats took significantly longer to respond to a change in rewards given to them in a maze and their performances never matched those of other rats not exposed to stress. 
All of us have experienced being in a new place and feeling certain that we have been there before. This mysterious feeling, commonly known as déjà vu, occurs when we feel that a new situation is familiar, even if there is evidence that the situation could not have occurred previously. For a long time, this eerie sensation has been attributed to everything from paranormal disturbances to neurological disorders. However, in recent years, as more scientists began studying this phenomenon, a number of theories about déjà vu have emerged, suggesting that it is not merely a glitch in our brain’s memory system. A new report by Colorado State University psychologist Anne M.
Why do so many people give up on those New Year's resolutions to lose weight or curb luxury spending? A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research says it has to do with the way our goals intersect with our natures and it uncovers some important differences in the way people categorize "necessities" and "luxuries.".

The study by authors Cait Poynor (University of Pittsburgh) and Kelly L. Haws (Texas A&M University) is one of the first to try to understand why some people have more trouble than others regulating behaviors.
Did you go to basic training for the military?  If so, it is a special memory and you remember it vividly but you don't want to repeat it.   On the opposite end of the spectrum, the truly special positive experiences are not something we want to repeat either - we want to keep them as memories.

So most people are unlikely to return to the place of their Honeymoon because they can't repeat it and don't want to diminish the memory.
 
A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research says people tend to treat their memories of previous special experiences as assets to be protected.
How rational are our fears?  

In late 2007 a study discovered the word that evoked the greatest fear.  The study included the words spider, snake death, rape, murder and incest.  

“Shark” evoked the strongest reaction.

But why?  Sharks rarely come in contact with us.  Three reasons:  the seeming randomness of their strike, the lack of warning for it and the apparent lack of remorse.

Why this is especially important for women to understand?

We women worry more than men. Much more.
Those mortifying accidents. Stephen J. Dubner unleashed a pent-up flood of guilt and shame from readers of his New York Times column.

Ever written an email, then sent it in haste … to the wrong person? Or cc’d people who shouldn’t have seen your candid message? Or mistakenly received an email that was not meant for your eyes? Within days after Dubner told his tale, 166 readers shared their stories of regret, outrage and in Marci Alboher’s case, a happy ending. Wonder what’s the proper etiquette in this new world of instantly sendable missives? Like advice on avoiding such mishaps?
Bluntly speaking, we are more likely to cooperate in a group when those who don’t get punished. “Darwin had a blind spot. It wasn’t that he didn’t see the role of cooperation in evolution. He just didn’t see how important it is.” Little has changed until relatively recently.

We were raised to compete because we were taught it was a matter of survival of the fittest. Yet, as David Brooks noted, even today, some believe in upfront combat and some in consensus.

Speaking of working together (or not), in many situations experts are not as accurate as a large group can be. “In fact, large groups, structured properly, can be smarter than the smartest member of a group.”
That irritating co-worker you’re stuck sitting by (again!) sees a decidedly different side of you than your best friend does. That’s because you have many people inside of you (no they’re not imaginary). That’s what veteran science writer, Rita Carter discovered as she began reading about bi-polar personalities for Mapping the Mind. Emerging research shows that several, “personalities are made and kept separate in the human brain” … of everyone. Want a glimpse of how many you have? Depending on the situation and who you’re are around, different people pop out and speak for you.
You, too, may laugh in amusement at these Candid Camera style “experiments.” Yet, ruefully, I acknowledge that I might conform within minutes… well seconds?

Also, see this other well-known (among psychologists, anyway) “people are sheep” experiment by Solomon Asch. Would you trust your eyes or an authority’s pronouncement? Afterwards, many psychologists concluded that the perceived power of the “authority” has a huge effect on our compliance.

Here’s a gratifying update.
We instinctively experience situations as individuals or as part of a group.  As David Brooks suggests today, the world is divided into those with an individualist or a collectivist mentality. Guess which group is larger.