from the world's big
Three scientists examine three dimensions of psychopathy: neurological, social, and criminal.
- How are the brains of psychopaths wired differently? In this video, psychologist Kevin Dutton, neuroscientist (and psychopath himself) James Fallon, and professor of psychiatry Michael Stone take the wiring apart.
- In neurotypical people, the amygdala and the orbitofrontal cortex inhibit one another to allow for reasonable, moral decision-making. Psychopaths don't have that mechanism.
- Up to 80% of who a psychopath will turn out to be is down to environment. Intelligence, natural aggressiveness, and your family and friends determine whether a psychopath will grow up to make a killing or just "make a killing in the market," as a famous headline once said.
Sometimes not looking forward to something helps you get it done.
- A study from the University of British Columbia weighs the effects of positive and negative anticipation.
- Immediate gratification is a powerful motivator; we also want to get negative experiences over with sooner than later.
- The feeling of dread can be a powerful motivational tool to stop procrastination.
The Science of Productivity and Motivation | Dan Ariely<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b1a2bc7280014931535569b65424ea40"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/xqMO_gx8Wac?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Anticipation asymmetry</strong>. "Anticipation pushes against our natural tendency to want good things now and bad things later." We'd rather get negative experiences over with to avoid the dread of waiting. Yet this desire is not as powerful as wanting positive experiences immediately. </p><p><strong>Subjective magnitude</strong>. We weigh negatives twice as heavily as positives. This is similar to loss aversion: We prefer avoiding losses than acquiring equivalent gains. Loss aversion focuses narrowly on losses and gains, however, while subjective magnitude broadly considers positive and negative events. </p><p>At the outset of their studies, the authors believed anticipation asymmetry better represents how we deal with future events. This is because anticipation of positive events yields two responses: positive anticipation in <em>savoring</em> the moment to come; negative anticipation causes us to be <em>impatient</em>. With negative events, <em>dread</em> is the result of negative anticipation. There is no positive correlation (except the relief of putting it off). </p><p>Five days of Facebook ads were purchased to measure responses to two retirement fund campaigns. One featured a tropical beach; the other was more dreadful. As anticipated, the latter won out. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We found that an advertisement emphasizing the anticipation of future expenses was the most effective." </p><p>The next study gauged enthusiasm for purchasing eyeglasses. The control in both groups was immediately paying for the glasses. Volunteers were given the option to either receive a rebate in one month or have an extra month to pay off the bill. The choices:</p><ul><li>Brand A: pay $122 now. Brand B: pay $142 now, receive $30 in one month</li><li>Brand A: pay $122 now, pay $30 in one month. Brand B: pay $142 now</li></ul><p>The anticipation of having a future bill was more powerful motivation than receiving a future rebate.</p>
A woman walks on the beach as a storm approaches in Nassau, Bahamas, on September 12, 2019.
Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP via Getty Images<p>Finally, 168 undergrads took part in a jellybean eating study. This was an involved study, with questionnaires given at various stages of decision-making. The gist: Would you rather eat a jellybean now or put it off? The choices: a delicious chocolate donut with sprinkles-flavored jellybean or a disgusting vomit-flavored jellybean.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"When participants considered a positively flavored jellybean, they somewhat enjoyed the feeling of anticipating it, but also did not like the feeling of waiting for it, and most often chose to consume it immediately. When participants considered a matched negatively flavored jellybean, they did not enjoy anticipating it nor the feeling of waiting for it, and most often chose to consume it immediately rather than delay it."</p><p>In both cases, volunteers ate the jellybean quickly, though for quite different reasons. </p><p>Negativity bias is a powerful motivator, as plenty of research on modern media has forced us to confront. The question is: can you use dread as a motivational tool to accomplish tasks more quickly? That idea was <a href="https://www.fastcompany.com/90513222/genius-productivity-hack-tell-yourself-its-a-horrible-hellacious-excruciating-task" target="_blank">put forward</a> at Fast Company. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Don't want to do something? Tell yourself that it will be <em>horrible</em>. The <em>worst</em>. A <em>godforsaken burden</em>."</p><p>Strong language, perhaps, but the theory is intriguing. As the study shows, immediate gratification is more strongly woven into our DNA than dread. Yet dread can be a motivational tool as well. Cognitive reframing can stop procrastination in its tracks. </p><p>Some media outlets are infamous for presenting doom and gloom to keep consumers anxious. We don't have to go that far. But if the fears of mopping at 75 motivates you to start saving today, the likelihood you'll get to that beach appears more likely to happen. Dread can be a force for positive change. </p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
When facing a hard decision, consider choosing change over inaction.
- A recently published study asked people to make tough life choices by flipping a coin.
- The participants were making these decisions on the margin, meaning they couldn't determine which choice would be better.
- The results show that people who chose change over inaction self-reported being better off and happier after six months.
Notes: This figure presents the percent of participants who make a change by the two-month survey mark according to their stated probability of changing and the result of the coin flip. The vertical axis reflects the percent of respondents who reported making a change. The horizontal axis groups respondents according to to their stated ex ante likelihoods of making a change. Responses are categorized according to whether the coin came up heads (make a change) or tails (no change).
Levitt<p>Some decisions people were stuck on: Should I quit smoking? Should I adopt? End my relationship? Get a tattoo? Rent or buy?</p><p>The study asked more than 20,000 participants to make whichever decision the coin toss directed, and then report back on how things played out after two and six months.</p><p>Of course, not everyone followed through. The two-month survey found that participants chose change less frequently than they had initially predicted they would. After six months, however, this bias toward inaction disappeared.</p><p>But most surprising were the results on well-being. At both the two and six-month marks, most people who chose change reported feeling happier, better off, and that they had made the correct decision and would make it again.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The data from my experiment suggests we would all be better off if we did more quitting," Levitt <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-05/oupu-sfp051520.php" target="_blank">said in a press release</a>. "A good rule of thumb in decision making is, whenever you cannot decide what you should do, choose the action that represents a change, rather than continuing the status quo."</p>
Levitt<p>The study had some limitations. One is that its participants weren't selected randomly. Rather, they opted in to the study after visiting FreakonomicsExperiments.com, which they likely heard about from the podcast or various social media channels associated with it.</p><p>Another limitation is that participants whose decision didn't play out well might have been less likely to report back on their status after two and six months. So, the study might be over-representing positive outcomes.</p><p>Still, the study does suggest that people who are on the margin of a tough decision — that is, people who really can't decide which option is best — are probably better off going with change.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"If the results are correct, then admonitions such as 'winners never quit and quitters never win,' while well-meaning, may actually be extremely poor advice," Levitt writes.</p>
Disney / Carl Barks<p>Levitt isn't suggesting you flip a coin to make all decisions. (After all, Donald Duck already experimented with this irrational decision-making strategy in the <a href="https://about-faces.livejournal.com/72971.html" target="_blank">1952 Disney comic "Flip Decision"</a>, where he practices a pseudophilosophy called "flipism." Spoiler: It didn't go well.) But coin-flipping does seem to have some benefits. In the study, Levin notes that some people might prefer surrendering their fate to randomness in order to avoid regret.<br></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"If regret is a product of decisions that one has control over," Levin writes, "giving up control to a randomizing device may, lessen possible regret, thus enhancing expected utility."</p><p>But you can also use randomness a bit more rationally. When facing a tough decision, you could flip a coin and, upon seeing the outcome, notice whether you feel relief or dread. If you feel relieved, that's probably the path you should choose.</p>
Flow Research Collective COO Rian Doris explains how to harness the power of your nervous system to find your flow during a pandemic.
- Knowing the difference between healthy stress (eustress) and unhealthy stress (distress) can help you maximize your performance during difficult times.
- The Flow Research Collective helps to decode the flow states of your mind so you can live (and work) in the zone, even during a pandemic.
- COO of The Flow Research Collective, Rian Doris, explains how to find your maximum potential and harness the power of your nervous system to work for you instead of against you.
How to find your flow and maximize your performance during the COVID-19 pandemic<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzE4MDc3OC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNTc3Mzc4Mn0.jWjWzkpW5farRcGt70YCWHtcK-xkLAd_bYDwPmLvP6k/img.png?width=980" id="5bd13" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b8762aae0f21100b36ee6a7467c0ab42" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="infographic courtesy of the Flow Research Collective finding your state of flow" />
Finding your "flow channel" can help you maintain healthy stress and decrease unhealthy stress.
Image by Flow Research Collective<p><strong></strong><strong>Increasing our capacity: What we perceive as stress goes down when we become more capable of coping with stressful situations.</strong></p><p>When it comes to increasing our capacity for handling negative stress, there are a few ways we can accomplish this - most of them are what are referred to as "bottom-up approaches." </p><p>A bottom-up approach is like piecing together a puzzle made of our various systems to give a more complex and complete picture . We need to ensure all of our systems are working at optimal levels without being too overwhelmed so they can function better together. </p><p><u>Things you can do to achieve this kind of systemic functionality include: </u></p><ul><li>Movement - exercising, running, jogging, or going for a walk.</li><li>Breathing exercises that help us practice mindfulness and achieve a calm state of mind.</li><li>Hot and cold therapy or other types of sensation therapy that can get us more in tune with our bodies. </li></ul><p><strong>Decreasing the impact: Manage how stress impacts our lives so the negative impact doesn't overwhelm our systems. </strong></p><p>While decreasing the impact of <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/seven-stress-personalities" target="_self">stress</a> is important, it's certainly not an easy thing to accomplish. After all, if we could simply decrease how negative stress impacts us then it would not be so much of a problem. </p><p>Especially in unprecedented times such as when we're dealing with a pandemic, it's not as easy to shield our system from the negative impacts of chronic stress. </p><p>Cognitive reframing is essentially changing the way you look at something, and as a result, changing your experience of it. This can turn a traumatic event (such as experiencing a pandemic or a major trauma in your life) into something that can be a challenge that is eventually overcome—or it can be as simple as depicting a really bad day as a "bump in the road" in your overall happy life. </p><p>Using <a href="https://www.verywellmind.com/cognitive-reframing-for-stress-management-3144872" target="_blank">certain reframing techniques</a> can actually change how your body responds to negative stress. Your body's stress response is triggered by perceived information around that stress—change the perception, change the response. </p><p><u>The pattern to follow with cognitive reframing is: </u></p><ol><li>Learn about thinking patterns (<a href="https://www.verywellmind.com/about-explanatory-styles-3145110" target="_blank">explanatory styles</a>). </li><li>Notice your own thoughts as they come. </li><li>Challenge negative thoughts and trace them to their origins. </li><li>Replace the root negative thought with a more positive thought. </li></ol><p>Cognitive reframing takes a lot of practice but you can do this as often as you'd like in your daily life and eventually it becomes easier to stop negative thoughts before they become chronic stressors. </p><p><strong>Keep in mind the challenge/skill balance when dealing with stress.</strong></p><p>According to Doris, a flow exists in the sweet spot between challenge and skill. This flow happens when we undertake challenges or goals in life that are optimally challenging for you to complete - not too easy that it requires no effort and not too difficult that it overwhelms your system.</p><p>Keeping this challenge/skill balance in mind for things in our daily lives can help us navigate our stressors, especially during a pandemic <a href="https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/coronavirus-impact-on-economy" target="_self">such as COVID-19</a>. Anything too easy doesn't pose as a challenge and doesn't excite us. However, if the challenge is too difficult, it overwhelms us and becomes a source of unhealthy chronic stress instead of healthy eustress. </p><p><em>"The challenge level for almost everyone has been increased in a systemic way by COVID-19, which means what we should do is decrease the challenge level in our own lives and the things we have control over in order to get us back to that challenge/skill sweet spot." </em></p>
Dr. Robert Emmons and other researchers dig into the positive mental and physical health benefits of expressing gratitude.
- According to Dr. Robert Emmons, gratitude is an affirmation of goodness and a recognition that these sources of goodness exist outside of ourselves.
- Various studies have proven there are physical benefits to expressing gratitude on a daily basis, some of which include positive interactions in the brain in the areas that control decision-making, metabolism, and hormone regulating.
- Other studies have confirmed gratitude is beneficial for our mental health, even during a time of crisis.
Gratitude is an affirmation of goodness, according to Dr. Robert Emmons.
Photo by stockfour on Shutterstock<p><a href="https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/profile/robert_emmons" target="_blank">Dr. Robert Emmons</a> is known as the "world's leading scientific expert on gratitude." He is a psychology profession from the University of California, Davis and also the founding editor-in-chief of the Journal of Positive Psychology. Emmons has dedicated his life to better understanding what role gratitude and thankfulness play, not just in our lives, but in our mental and physical health as well.</p><p>Many people are in need of motivation to practice gratitude for the good things in life, especially during a pandemic when stress-levels are at an all-time high. For the past decade, Emmons has been studying the effects of gratitude on our physical health and psychological well-being. </p><p>"It's an affirmation of goodness," <a href="https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/gratitude/definition#why_practice" target="_blank">Emmons explains</a>. "We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts, and the benefits that we've received. We recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves and we acknowledge that other people - even higher powers, if you're of a spiritual mindset - give us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness we have in our lives." </p><p>"I see it as a relationship-strengthening emotion," Emmons writes of the social dimension of gratitude, "because it requires us to see how we've been supported and affirmed by other people</p><p>According to sociologist <a href="https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/gratitude/definition#why_practice" target="_blank">Georg Simmel</a>, gratitude serves as a way to personalize things that we all experience objectively. Simmel has often referred to gratitude as "the moral memory of mankind." </p>
How does gratitude impact our mental and physical wellbeing?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzE0ODQ2Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNjkxMDk0M30.dSq9nhaUWs53dYuYaSDCovbhnxZODpbsDbizfgS3Tfc/img.jpg?width=980" id="646d7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5498146f1406ea65b258fca78a8db21a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="neural correlates gratitude Glenn Fox how gratitude impacts the brain" />
Your brain on gratitude, according to fMRI images taken during a gratitude study lead by Glenn Fox.
Image by Glenn Fox<p>There have several studies investigating what gratitude and thankfulness look like within the human brain—what neural networks are being used and how does that positively impact us?</p><p><strong>Gratitude makes you feel good mentally and physically. </strong></p><p>The first fMRI images of a brain experiencing gratitude were taking <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2733324/" target="_blank">in 2008</a>. The scans showed that gratitude causes synchronized activation of multiple regions of the brain, including some of the brain's reward pathways and the hypothalamus, which plays a crucial role in releasing hormones throughout our bodies.</p><p>Later, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3010965/" target="_blank">in 2009,</a> researchers realized that these higher levels of activity in the hypothalamus had a huge influence on metabolism and stress levels. This means that gratitude could have such wide-reaching positive effects that you begin to eat better and sleep more, which could ultimately lead to decreased depression and better physical health. </p><p><strong>Gratitude helps improve the decision-making process in your brain.</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01491/full" target="_blank">A 2015 study</a> from the University of Southern California hypothesized that gratitude spikes activity in the regions of the brain associated with moral cognition, value judgment, and theory of mind (the anterior cingulate cortex and medial prefrontal cortex, respectively). The FMRI data results of the study, which included 26 participants ranging in ages 18-28, confirmed activity spikes in those regions.</p><p><strong>Gratitude can improve mental health (even when you're at an all-time low). </strong></p><p>That same year, <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10503307.2016.1169332?scroll=top&needAccess=true&journalCode=tpsr20" target="_blank">another study</a> was conducted, this time on individuals who had pre-existing mental health concerns. These 293 people were recruited for this study at a time when their mental health was at an all-time clinical low, as they hadn't yet begun counseling sessions. The majority of these participants struggled with depression and/or anxiety. </p><p>The subjects were divided at random into three groups: a control group (psychotherapy), a group that underwent psychotherapy and expressive writing, and a third group that underwent psychotherapy and gratitude writing. </p><p>Within 4-12 weeks after the conclusion of their writing interventions, the participants who underwent psychotherapy and gratitude writing reported significantly better mental health than those in the expressive and control writing intervention groups. </p><p>The findings of this study (and others like it) suggest that gratitude writing can be beneficial not just for the healthy, well-adjusted mind, but for individuals who are struggling with mental health concerns. </p><p><strong>Gratitude should be a long-term adaptation of your behavior to have the best impact on your physical and mental health.</strong></p><p>It's important to note that in the writing study, the mental health benefits of gratitude weren't felt immediately after writing gratitude letters, but gradually accrued over time as participants of the study made gratitude writing a habit in their lives. </p><p>Not only that, but fMRI images (<a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/288932385_The_effects_of_gratitude_expression_on_neural_activity" target="_blank">found here</a> on page 5) taken of the participants' brains while completing a "pay it forward" task shows that their brain activity was distinct from brain activity related to guilt and the desire to help a cause. People who were more grateful tended to give more money to a cause they believed in and showed a greater neural sensitivity in their prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain associated with learning and decision making.</p>