Why are we so critical of ourselves after meeting someone new? Self-protection.
A new study discovers the “liking gap” — the difference between how we view others we’re meeting for the first time, and the way we think they’re seeing us.
We tend to be defensive socially. When we meet new people, we're often concerned with how we're coming off. Our anxiety causes us to be so concerned with the impression we're creating that we fail to notice that the same is true of the other person as well. A new study led by Erica J. Boothby, published on September 5 in Psychological Science, reveals how people tend to like us more in first encounters than we'd ever suspect.
We spend an inordinate — some would say “unhealthy" — amount of time worrying about what others think of us. We don't really know how we come off, in truth, but we regularly construct a metaperception of ourselves that represents how we think we do. And we tend to be unkind to ourselves, according to the new study.
The “liking gap"
What the study reveals is that there's a major disconnect between the way two people are likely to judge each other on first meeting, but it's not what you might expect. Their experiments show that in a first encounter, each person thinks well of the other person but assumes that they themselves have come off poorly. Since both parties feel this way, an almost comical asymmetry occurs, with a significant gap between how we're viewed and how we think we're viewed.
Co-author Margaret S. Clark tells YaleNews, “We call this a 'liking gap,' and it can hinder our ability to develop new relationships." She adds, “They seem to be too wrapped up in their own worries about what they should say or did say to see signals of others' liking for them, which observers of the conservations see right away."
Since both people like the other person more than they assume they themselves are being liked, “We're self-protectively pessimistic and do not want to assume the other likes us before we find out if that's really true." This makes the process more awkward than it needs to be, risking the loss of an opportunity for enjoyment. Later on, “We critically monitor ourselves and regret not telling the joke more smoothly or worry about whether we sound as if we are bragging."
The study's experiments
Boothby and her colleagues performed a series of experiments.
Experiment 1a: Is There a Liking Gap?
In this test, the researchers recruited 36 people from the Yale community, 72.2 percent female, and 27.8 percent male. The average age of participants was 23.25 years, with a standard deviation of 6.12 years.
Each subject was introduced to a same-sex partner, and, having been provided some ice-breaking questions to keep the conversation going, the two were seated side-by-side at a large table and tasked with chatting until a researcher returned in five minutes. The conversation was recorded on a computer nearby that displayed a large analog-style clock to help the new acquaintances pace themselves.
Afterward, the subjects were separated and asked to rate their agreement with eight statements.
Four assessed how much they liked the other person:
- “I generally liked the other participant."
- “I would be interested in getting to know the other participant better."
- “If given the chance, I would like to interact with the other participant again."
- “I could see myself becoming friends with the other participant."
Four assessed how much they thought the other person like them:
- “The other participant generally liked me."
- “The other participant would be interested in getting to know me better."
- “If given the chance, the other participant would like to interact with me again."
- “The other participant could see himself/herself becoming friends with me."
The researchers concluded, “after a brief conversation with another person, people significantly underestimated how much others liked them." They found their experiment “provided the predicted evidence of the liking gap."
Before moving on, a follow-up test, 1b, assessed whether or not subjects were clearly signifying their approval of each other during the conversation, and the researchers concluded that they clearly had — the signals were just not being picked up.
Study 2: Why Does the Liking Gap Exist?
In this experiment with paired same-sex conversants from a pool of 84 students and recent graduates — 59.5 percent female, 40.5 percent male and a median age of 19.25 years — there were no icebreakers provided. Instead, the instructions were simple: “You'll have about five minutes to talk, and you can talk about whatever you like. I'll keep time from the other room and then return when it's time to move on."
Afterward, they were separately asked two questions:
- “What are the top three moments from your conversation that caused you to form the impression of the other person that you did?"
- What are the top three moments from your conversation that caused the other person to form the impression of you that he/she did?"
Subjects were then asked to describe the significant moments in detail and assign them a rating of 1–7, from "extremely negative" to "extremely positive."
The researchers were able to conclude, “When participants reflected on their conversations, their most salient thoughts about how others viewed them were more negative than their most salient thoughts about how they viewed others, and this difference was related to how much they believed their conversation partners liked them."
Study 3: Does the Liking Gap Persist in Longer Conversations?
In their third experiment, this time with 102 subjects — 52.9 percent female, 47.1 percent male and a median age of 23.62 — were given up to 45 minutes to chat about anything, self-regulating the duration as they saw fit, and then questioned.
The team wanted to ascertain whether the length of a conversation affected the presence of a liking gap. The answer? No: “In sum, across conversations that ranged from 2 min to 45 min, people systematically underestimated the extent to which their conversation partners liked them and enjoyed the conversation."
Study 4: Can the Liking Gap Be Observed in the Real World?
To find this out, 128 people attending “How to Talk to Strangers" workshops were evaluated —52 percent female, 42 percent male and a median age of 29.61.
Before pairing off to talk for five minutes with someone they'd selected and didn't know, subjects were questioned on their expectations. They were asked to guess how interesting they would find their conversation partner to be and how interesting they thought their partner would find them.
After the conversations ended, subjects were again questioned, this time about how interesting they found their partner and how interesting they felt their partner had found them.
An analysis of their responses revealed that, yes, the liking effect is not just something that happens in the unnatural environment of the lab. Interestingly, in this case, it existed both before and after the experiment, with researchers finding that, “when anticipating a future conversation, participants underestimated how interesting their conversation partner would find them. This mistaken belief persisted — and indeed was magnified — after participants actually talked to their conversation partner."
Study 5: Does the Liking Gap Persist Over Time?
In this final test about the persistence and long-term effect of the liking gap, 102 first-year college students — 49.5 percent female and 50.5 percent male — participated in a year-long study looking into “how relationships normally develop."
They were questioned at the beginning of the study and then four other times over the course of the year regarding from one to four people in their dorm area. Of the other people, they were asked:
- “How much do you like [name of suite mate]?"
- “How interested are you in getting to know [name of suite mate] better?"
- “How interested are you in becoming better friends with [name of suite mate]?"
- “How interested are you in spending more time with [name of suite mate]?"
They were also asked how they thought they were perceived:
- “How much do you think [name of suite mate] likes you?"
- “How interested do you think [name of suite mate] is in getting to know you better?"
- “How interested do you think [name of suite mate] is in becoming better friends with you?"
- “How interested do you think [name of suite mate] is in spending more time with you?"
Concerningly, when the results were analyzed, says the study, “The liking gap persisted over short, medium, and long conversations and even over the course of a year, as suite mates developed new relationships." This means that first impressions really do matter, in the sense that they help us develop habits regarding how we feel about others and how they feel about us.
What are we supposed to do with this information?
When you find yourself wondering how you're seeming to a person you're just meeting, take comfort in the fact that they probably aren't paying that much attention to you — they're too busy wondering what you think of them. The best strategy? You might try just relaxing and having a good time meeting someone new.
While legalization has benefits, a new study suggests it may have one big drawback.
- A new study finds that rates of marijuana use and addiction have gone up in states that have recently legalized the drug.
- The problem was most severe for those over age of 26, with cases of addiction rising by a third.
- The findings complicate the debate around legalization.
Cannabis Use Disorder, is that when you get so high you can’t figure out how to smoke anymore?<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="hfrVfwoH" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="0e62d9cb9c0a2361f81e9b5278706614"> <div id="botr_hfrVfwoH_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/hfrVfwoH-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/hfrVfwoH-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/hfrVfwoH-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538131/" target="_blank">Cannabis use disorder</a>, also known as CUD or cannabis/marijuana addiction, is a psychological disorder described in DSM 5 as "the continued use of cannabis despite clinically significant impairment." This includes people being unable to cut down on their usage despite wanting to, those who often use it despite finding it severely impairs their ability to function, or those who are putting themselves in danger to secure access to the drug.</p><p>While an understanding that marijuana can be addictive has existed for some time, and the image of the pothead who smokes so much they can hardly function is prevalent in our society, the effects of legalization on addiction rates have somehow gone understudied until now. Importantly, previous studies had failed to consider usage rates amongst populations over the age of 25.</p><p>In the new study, published in <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/article-abstract/2755276?utm_campaign=articlePDF%26utm_medium%3darticlePDFlink%26utm_source%3darticlePDF%26utm_content%3djamapsychiatry.2019.3254" target="_blank">JAMA Psychiatry</a>, focused on self-reported data on monthly drug use in four states where marijuana is now legal, Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon, from both before and after the drug was legalized in each state and compared it to others which have not yet legalized.</p><p>The data gave insights into the drug use habits of the respondents and specifically gave information about if they had smoked at all in the last month, the frequency of their drug use, and if they had ever had issues with how much they were using drugs.The researchers ultimately considered the responses of 505,796 individuals.</p><p>The increase in cannabis usage they found was <a href="https://www.newsweek.com/cannabis-use-disorder-rising-us-states-where-weed-legal-1471170" target="_blank">considerable</a>. The number of respondents over the age of 26 who claimed to have used the drug in the last month went up by 23% compared with their counterparts in states that have yet to legalize. Abuse of the drug by this group rose by 37%. </p><p>Teen usage rose by 25%, and addiction rates rose as well. This increase was small, though, and the authors have suggested it may be due to an unknown factor. The rate of usage or abuse for respondents between the ages of 18 and 25 did not increase at all. </p><p>After breaking the results down by demographics, the primary finding held; adults over the age of 26 are using marijuana more often when it is legalized, and they are starting to use it too much.</p>
The grain of salt<p>As in any study where findings are self-reported, the exact numbers you see here should be taken with a grain of salt. They could be slightly higher or lower. As this study relies on people self-reporting their usage of a drug that is still illegal in many places, it is very possible that the apparent spike in addiction rates is caused by more accurate reporting, as people who live in an area where pot is still illegal may be less likely to report smoking it every day.</p><p>And it should be repeated a thousand times over that correlation and causation are not the same thing. There could be some unknown factor causing these increases in each case. </p><p>Despite these qualifications, the study is still useful in giving us a general sense of what may happen in states that have yet to legalize. </p>
What does this mean for society and drug users?<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="BdVRmwgX" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="d5c2f9e3739c26170f98b48bf07a3444"> <div id="botr_BdVRmwgX_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/BdVRmwgX-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/BdVRmwgX-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/BdVRmwgX-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>While claims of "reefer madness" are greatly exaggerated, marijuana has several well established and thoroughly studied side <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long-term_effects_of_cannabis#Mental_health" target="_blank">effects</a>. While occasional use isn't terribly harmful, addiction can be. Lead author Magdalena Cerdá of New York University explains in the study that heavy marijuana use is associated with "psychological and physical health concerns, lower educational attainment, decline in social class, unemployment, and motor vehicle crashes."</p><p>A substantial increase in the number of people who are addicted to the stuff will incur costs to society down the line. <strong></strong></p><p>Of course, a 37% increase in problematic usage means that the percentage of adults smoking too much went from .9% to 1.23% of the population responding to the survey. This makes it far less prevalent than issues with alcohol, which affected around 6% of all Americans in <a href="https://www.verywellmind.com/prevalence-of-alcoholism-in-the-united-states-67876" target="_blank">2018</a>. </p><p>Recently, Big Think's <a href="https://bigthink.com/u/philip-perry" target="_self">Philip Perry</a> wrote a piece about how <a href="https://bigthink.com/want-to-protect-the-health-of-35-million-americans-legalize-cannabis" target="_self">legalization could improve the health of millions</a> by allowing the government to regulate the purity of commercially sold marijuana. This remains true. However, it must be weighed against the findings of this study, which suggests that at least some of these health gains will be wiped out by increased addiction rates.</p>
What does this mean for legalization efforts?<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="bnPA9J9g" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="429e1d17ba031b02d4e79b4f02f54ab5"> <div id="botr_bnPA9J9g_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/bnPA9J9g-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/bnPA9J9g-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/bnPA9J9g-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>The legalization steamroller will undoubtedly keep rolling along. While health concerns are one factor in the debate over marijuana, it is only one of many. In Illinois, where I live, weed will become legal on January 1<sup>st</sup> of 2020. The legalization campaign and <a href="https://www.chicagotribune.com/politics/ct-met-illinois-recreational-marijuana-legislation-20190531-story.html" target="_blank">legislation</a> were more concerned with issues of social justice, the failures of prohibition, and finding a new source of tax revenue (<a href="https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/breaking/ct-illinois-tickets-collection-agencies-20190703-20190711-gyf77w52mbcdxkaxpleeay277a-story.html" target="_blank">since we're half broke</a>) than with matters of potential addiction.</p><p>As Vox <a href="https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/11/13/20962924/marijuana-legalization-use-addiction-study" target="_blank">reports</a>, the authors of the study aren't suggesting that legalization shouldn't take place; that is another, broader debate. They merely wish to present the fact that legalization has a particular side effect that we should be aware of.</p><p>While this study is unlikely to change anybody's stance on if weed should be legalized or not, it does show us a critical element to be considered when discussing drug policy. No drug is perfectly safe, and we have reason to believe that legalizing marijuana will mean that more people will have a hard time with it. Let's hope that legalization proponents keep that in mind as they rack up their victories. </p>
Tea and coffee have known health benefits, but now we know they can work together.
Credit: NIKOLAY OSMACHKO from Pexels
- A new study finds drinking large amounts of coffee and tea lowers the risk of death in some adults by nearly two thirds.
- This is the first study to suggest the known benefits of these drinks are additive.
- The findings are great, but only directly apply to certain people.
Maybe you should enjoy this article with a cup of coffee or tea.<p> The <a href="https://drc.bmj.com/content/8/1/e001252?T=AU" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">study</a> involved 4,923 type 2 diabetics living in Japan. The average participant was 66 years old. All of the participants were taken from the rolls of the Fukuoka Diabetes Registry, a study geared at learning about the effects of new treatments and lifestyle changes on the health of diabetics. <br> <br> The participants filled out questionnaires concerning their health, diet, habits, and other factors. Among the questions were two focused on determining how much green tea or coffee, if any, the participants consumed over the course of a week. The health of the participants was recorded for five years. During this time, 309 of the test subjects died from a variety of causes. <br> <br> Subjects who drank more than one cup of tea or coffee per day demonstrated lower odds of dying than those who had none. Those who consumed the most tea and coffee, more than four and two cups a day, respectively, enjoyed the most significant reductions in their risk of death. This level of consumption was associated with a 40 percent lower risk of <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/10/201020190129.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">death</a>. </p><p>Most interestingly, the effects of drinking tea and coffee appear to combine to reduce risk even further. Those who reported drinking two or three cups of tea a day and two or more cups of coffee were 51 percent less likely to die during the study, while those who drank a whopping four or more cups of tea and two or more cups of coffee had a 63 percent lower risk of <a href="https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/diabetes-coffee-and-green-tea-might-reduce-death-risk" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">death</a>. </p>
So, should I start swimming in a vat of coffee and green tea?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/LY0E-JQxeoY" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> Not quite. </p><p> The primary takeaway from this study is that Japanese adults with type 2 diabetes who drink a lot of green tea and/or coffee die less often than similar people who do not. If this effect is caused by something in the drink, lifestyle choices people who drink that much tea all make, or something else remains unknown. The finding must be considered an association at this point. <br> <br> The eye-popping reductions in mortality rates are compared to the risk of death of others in the study. The people who died reported drinking less tea and coffee than those who lived. Unless you have several demographic and conditional similarities to the subjects of this study, you probably won't suddenly be at a two-thirds lower risk of death than your peers because you drink green tea. </p><p> Like all studies that depend on self-reporting, it is also possible that people misstated how much they consumed any one item. The study also did not look into other factors like socioeconomic status or education level, also known to impact death rates and potentially linked to coffee and tea consumption. </p><p> However, it is yet another study in the pile that suggests that <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-13-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-coffee" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">coffee</a> and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-green-tea" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">green tea</a> are good for you. That much is increasingly <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/health-benefits-linked-to-drinking-tea" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">agreed</a><a href="https://www.rush.edu/health-wellness/discover-health/health-benefits-coffee" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> upon</a>. This study also suggests the benefits are additive, which is a new development.</p><p><br> So, while it isn't time to start the IV drip of green tea, a cup or two probably won't <a href="https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/news/20201022/coffee-green-tea-might-extend-life-for-folks-with-type-2-diabetes" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">hurt</a>. </p>
But most city dwellers weren't seeing the science — they were seeing something out of Blade Runner.
On Sept. 9, many West Coast residents looked out their windows and witnessed a post-apocalyptic landscape: silhouetted cars, buildings and people bathed in an overpowering orange light that looked like a jacked-up sunset.