from the world's big
Neurotic people have noisier, more chaotic minds, say researchers
Study finds that neurotic people deal with more "mental noise" than others.
- Neuroticism is characterized by emotional instability and lack of resilience.
- People who score high on neuroticism are at an increased risk for mental health problems and relationship woes.
- New research suggests that neurotic people deal with more mental noise.
Of the main personality traits, Neuroticism (characterized by emotional instability and lack of resilience) is probably the one with the least going for it.
High scorers on this trait are impulsive, tend to worry a lot, and they struggle with low moods and short tempers. Thanks to personality research, we know a lot about what lies in store for people who score high on neuroticism, such as increased risk of mental health problems and relationship turmoil. But as Robert Klein and Michael Robinson note in their new paper in Journal of Personality we know a lot less about the psychological processes that underlie the trait. From an emotional perspective, neurotic people are said to be more sensitive to threat and punishment, but what about the cognitive side? Across four studies, Klein and Robinson present evidence consistent with what they call the mental noise hypothesis — "neurotic people have noisier, more chaotic mental control systems," they write.
The four studies involved hundreds of undergrad students, who filled out personality questionnaires and then took part in a simple tracking task, in which they had to use a computer mouse or joystick to track a horizontally moving on-screen target with their cursor as accurately as possible. Each tracking trial, of which there were up to 60 per person, lasted between 30 seconds or as little as 5 seconds.
The researchers were able to examine participants' tracking accuracy with high temporal precision, using the task to assess "micro-momentary disconnections between the mind and its control of the external environment." Given the shortness of the trials, plus the fact the task did not require storing or manipulating information in working memory, and that there was no need to adjust to different instructions, Klein and Robinson said it was too simple and easy to be considered an "executive function" task (involving more complex mental processes) and was instead best characterized as a "form of mindfulness task that requires intention, attention and awareness concerning a simple activity."
Notably, previous research has found an inverse correlation between trait neuroticism and trait mindfulness — neurotic folk are often so fretful and distracted with worry about the past and future that they find it difficult to be in the present. However, according to past findings, this distracted state doesn't manifest in lower IQ or worse job performance. This paradox may be explained by neurotic people compensating by investing more effort than average, the researchers suggested (after all, anxiety-prone people would hate to fail or underperform). Part of the rationale for the tracking task, then, was that it would be so simple that performance would not vary with greater effort — in a sense providing the researchers with a pure measure of their participants' mental control, or what you could think of as their levels of mental noise.
True to their predictions, the researchers found that across all the studies, higher scorers in neuroticism were less accurate at tracking the on-screen targets. Also, the link between neuroticism and poorer performance was consistent, being no greater during earlier or later trials (discounting the influence of factors like fatigue). "A task with excellent temporal resolution appears to possess considerable value in documenting the sorts of lapses and slips thought to be somewhat endemic to neurotic forms of self-regulation," the researchers said. In contrast, the other main personality traits, such as extraversion and conscientiousness, were not associated with performance.
The researchers also blasted the participants with annoying loud white noise at periodic intervals, to see if this had a greater adverse effect on more neurotic participants. Although the noise blasts impaired performance (affecting accuracy for about a second), the degree of impairment wasn't any greater for more neurotic people. This may be because the distraction of the noise was so immediate and unavoidable that personality differences were not relevant.
In the final study, after completing the tracking task, participants were also asked to keep a two-week daily diary of their feelings of distress and nervousness, as well as any daily stressors, such as feeling like they had too much to do. Poorer performance on the tracking task correlated with more frequent daily experiences of negative emotional states, regardless of any actual stressors. Klein and Robinson said this was consistent with their task being a kind of implicit personality measure: "even brief lapses of attention can reflect the sorts of processes that give rise to longer term affective consequences," they said.
If the researchers are correct in their characterization of neuroticism — and we need more studies with more diverse participant samples to test their theory — it could open up avenues for interventions to increase emotional stability, for example through training to increase mental control and so reduce mental noise.
- Self-obsession is creating a neurotic culture. Can we fix this? - Big ... ›
- The Big Five Personality Traits and What They Mean to Psychologists ›
Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.
Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.
Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.
But science loves a good challenge<p>The mystery remained unsolved until 2005, when French scientists <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~audoly/" target="_blank">Basile Audoly</a> and <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~neukirch/" target="_blank">Sebastien Neukirch </a>won an <a href="https://www.improbable.com/ig/" target="_blank">Ig Nobel Prize</a>, an award given to scientists for real work which is of a less serious nature than the discoveries that win Nobel prizes, for finally determining why this happens. <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/spaghetti/audoly_neukirch_fragmentation.pdf" target="_blank">Their paper describing the effect is wonderfully funny to read</a>, as it takes such a banal issue so seriously. </p><p>They demonstrated that when a rod is bent past a certain point, such as when spaghetti is snapped in half by bending it at the ends, a "snapback effect" is created. This causes energy to reverberate from the initial break to other parts of the rod, often leading to a second break elsewhere.</p><p>While this settled the issue of <em>why </em>spaghetti noodles break into three or more pieces, it didn't establish if they always had to break this way. The question of if the snapback could be regulated remained unsettled.</p>
Physicists, being themselves, immediately wanted to try and break pasta into two pieces using this info<p><a href="https://roheiss.wordpress.com/fun/" target="_blank">Ronald Heisser</a> and <a href="https://math.mit.edu/directory/profile.php?pid=1787" target="_blank">Vishal Patil</a>, two graduate students currently at Cornell and MIT respectively, read about Feynman's night of noodle snapping in class and were inspired to try and find what could be done to make sure the pasta always broke in two.</p><p><a href="http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-mathematicians-solve-age-old-spaghetti-mystery-0813" target="_blank">By placing the noodles in a special machine</a> built for the task and recording the bending with a high-powered camera, the young scientists were able to observe in extreme detail exactly what each change in their snapping method did to the pasta. After breaking more than 500 noodles, they found the solution.</p>
The apparatus the MIT researchers built specifically for the task of snapping hundreds of spaghetti sticks.
(Courtesy of the researchers)
What possible application could this have?<p>The snapback effect is not limited to uncooked pasta noodles and can be applied to rods of all sorts. The discovery of how to cleanly break them in two could be applied to future engineering projects.</p><p>Likewise, knowing how things fragment and fail is always handy to know when you're trying to build things. Carbon Nanotubes, <a href="https://bigthink.com/ideafeed/carbon-nanotube-space-elevator" target="_self">super strong cylinders often hailed as the building material of the future</a>, are also rods which can be better understood thanks to this odd experiment.</p><p>Sometimes big discoveries can be inspired by silly questions. If it hadn't been for Richard Feynman bending noodles seventy years ago, we wouldn't know what we know now about how energy is dispersed through rods and how to control their fracturing. While not all silly questions will lead to such a significant discovery, they can all help us learn.</p>
Join Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and best-selling author Charles Duhigg as he interviews Victoria Montgomery Brown, co-founder and CEO of Big Think.
Women today are founding more businesses than ever. In 2018, they made up 40% of new entrepreneurs, yet in that same year, they received just 2.2% of all venture capital investment. The playing field is off-balance. So what can women do?
In a recent study, researchers examined how Christian nationalism is affecting the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A new study used survey data to examine the interplay between Christian nationalism and incautious behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The researchers defined Christian nationalism as "an ideology that idealizes and advocates a fusion of American civic life with a particular type of Christian identity and culture."
- The results showed that Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior.
A pastor at the chapel of the St. Josef Hospital on April 1, 2020 in Bochum, German
Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images<p>Christian nationalists, in general, believe the U.S. and God's will are tied together, and they want the government to embody conservative Christian values and symbols. As such, they also believe the nation's fate depends on how closely it adheres to Christianity.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unsurprisingly then, in the midst of the COVID‐19 pandemic, conservative pastors prophesied God's protection over the nation, citing America's righteous support for President Trump and the prolife agenda," the researchers write.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Correspondingly, the link between Christian nationalism and God's influence on how COVID‐19 impacts America can be seen in proclamations about God's divine judgment for its immorality―with the logic being that God is using the pandemic to draw wayward America <em>back </em>to himself, which assumes the two belong together."</p><p>The logical conclusion to this kind of thinking: America can save itself not through cautionary measures, like mask-wearing, but through devotion to God. What's more, it stands to reason that Christian nationalists are less likely to trust the media and scientists, given that these sources are generally not concerned with promoting a conservative, religious view of the world.</p><p>(The researchers note that they're unaware of any research directly linking Christian nationalism to distrust of media sources, but that they're almost certain the two are connected.)</p>
Predicted values of Americans' frequency of incautious behaviors during the COVID‐19 pandemic across values of Christian nationalism
Perry et al.<p>In the new study, the researchers examined three waves of results from the Public and Discourse Ethics Survey. One wave of the survey was issued in May, and it asked respondents to rate how often they engaged in both incautious and precautionary behaviors.</p><p>Incautious behaviors included things like "ate inside a restaurant" and "went shopping for nonessential items," while precautionary behaviors included "washed my hands more often than typical" and "wore a mask in public."</p><p>To measure Christian nationalism, the researchers asked respondents to rate how strongly they agree with statements like "the federal government should advocate Christian values" and "the success of the United States is part of God's plan."</p><p>The results suggest that, compared to other groups, Christian nationalists are far less likely to wear masks, socially distance and take other precautionary measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior during the pandemic, and the second leading predictor that Americans avoided taking precautionary measures."</p><p>But that's not to say that religious beliefs are causing Americans to reject mask-wearing or social distancing. In fact, when the study accounted for Christian nationalist beliefs, the results showed that Americans with high levels of religiosity were likely to take precautionary measures for COVID-19.</p>
Limitations<p>Still, the researchers note that they're theorizing about the connections between Christian nationalism and COVID-19 behaviors, not documenting them directly. What's more, they suggest that certain experiences — such as having a family member that contracts COVID-19 — might change a Christian nationalist's behaviors during the pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Limitations notwithstanding, the implications of this study are important for understanding Americans' curious inability to quickly implement informed and reasonable strategies to overcome the threat of COVID‐19, an inability that has likely cost thousands of lives," they write.</p>
Parental anxieties stem from the complex relationship between technology, child development, and the internet's trove of unseemly content.