Scientists ripped up kids' drawings. This is what they learned about relationships.
- Forgiveness as a cultural act linked to religion and philosophy dates back centuries, but studies focused on the science of apologies, morality, and relationships are fairly new. As Amrisha Vaish explains, causing harm, showing remorse, and feeling concern for others are things children pay attention to, even in their first year of life.
- In a series of experiments, adults ripped children's artworks and either showed remorse or showed neutrality. They found that remorse really mattered. "Here we see what [the kids] really care about is that the transgressor shows their commitment to them, to the relationship," Vaish says. "And they will seek that person out over even an in-group member."
- As a highly social species, cooperation is vital to humans. Learning what factors make or break those social bonds can help communities, teams, and partners work together to meet challenges and survive.
Experts plead with Americans to keep gatherings limited this Thanksgiving, while families devise new ways to celebrate the holidays.
The experts agree<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc5MDgyNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMjU4MTI4OX0.3o3ULs3WhMned31DMmr-mvZdiFYvqo6NxcaxSAh9sjQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="3894b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="105be1aaba5ecf60fd69fa89486833f7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="997" data-height="502" />
A graph showing confirmed coronavirus cases from Jan. 3 to Nov. 18, 2020. The third, current peak is the largest so far.
To grandmother's house we go?<p>Even while governors and experts pleaded with families to limit Thanksgiving gatherings to individual households, there has been no uniform, country-wide restrictions put in place. As such, every family must perform a risk calculation to decide how to spend Thanksgiving.</p><p>"[G]iven the fluid and dynamic nature of what's going on right now in the spread and the uptick of infections, I think people should be very careful and prudent about social gatherings, particularly when members of the family might be at a risk because of their age or their underlying condition," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said on <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/fauci-thanksgiving-covid-different/" target="_blank">CBS Evening News</a>. </p><p>He added, "When you're talking about relatives that are getting on a plane, being exposed in an airport, being exposed in a plane, then walk in the door and say 'Happy Thanksgiving' — that you have to be careful about."</p><p>To help families make their decisions, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays/thanksgiving.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released Thanksgiving considerations</a> to supplement safety alongside local rules and regulations. The agency lists several factors to consider in any risk calculation. These include local levels of COVID-19, potential travel exposure, the number of people attending, the health risks of those attendees, and the duration of the gathering as well as its location.</p><p>If people from outside the household will attend, the CDC recommends the following actions to increase safety and limit viral transmission:</p><ul><li>Ensure everyone wears a mask when not eating or drinking;</li><li>Keep people who do not live together at least 6 feet apart;</li><li>Have people bring their own food, drinks, utensils, etc. No potluck-style dinners;</li><li>Host the gathering outdoors or increase indoor ventilation;</li><li>Keep music levels down to prevent shouting or speaking too loudly;</li><li>Encourage good handwashing; </li><li>Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces often.</li></ul><p>You can find more information on the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">CDC's Holidays website</a>. It's also worth noting that <a href="https://medical.mit.edu/covid-19-updates/2020/07/how-long-symptom-onset-person-contagious#:~:text=The%20CDC%20identifies%20a%20%E2%80%9Cclose,who%20has%20been%20positively%20diagnosed" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a negative result on a COVID-19 test</a> is no guarantee of safety. People can harbor the virus, become infectious to others, show no symptoms, and still render a false positive several days after their initial infection.</p>
Staying home for the holidays<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="caf5ae9303d7359a42a37cfc200d83b1"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/yDuHtJCj_Og?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>For families staying physically distanced, there remains the question of how to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. 2020's standard answer has been the Skype or Zoom call. Certainly an option, but one that should be spiced up for the holiday meal.</p><p>You can, for example, integrate your preferred telecommunication app can into shared experiences. Family members can work meal prep together or teach each other their signature dishes. Activities like crafts, decorating, and thankfulness trees can be coordinated by the kids and shared with the family simultaneously. You can cook up the same meal, light the same scented candles, and listen to the same music to create a common sensual environment.</p><p>You can also find telecommunication apps designed to be used alongside specific activities. <a href="https://discord.com/" target="_blank">Discord</a> is a favorite among gamers for video games. Even if battle royales aren't your family's speed, it works perfectly well for <a href="https://bigthink.com/personal-growth/board-games-for-kids" target="_self">board games</a>, and your family's favorite likely has a digital version available. Similarly, <a href="https://www.netflixparty.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Netflix's Teleparty</a> provides an online space to watch and chat about movies together. If Black Friday was your family's bonding tradition, try scouring for the savings together online and share a cocktail afterward to toast a successful shop. There is also the platform <a href="https://gather.town/" target="_blank">Gather</a>, which allows for proximity video chatting in a customizable 2D world.</p><p>If your family wishes to disconnect from the binary realm, try beginning a new holiday tradition this Thanksgiving. You can write holiday letters to distant family members. We're talking physical letters, which <a href="https://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/343131" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">preliminary research suggests</a> has the salubrious bonus of reducing stress and anxiety for the writer. You can create holiday care packages for friends. And this year especially, the holiday card and photobook traditions will be more appreciated than ever. If you're in a time crunch, emails or texts are also nice.</p><p>For most families, Thanksgiving in 2020 will be unlike any other and will be, for better or worse, one to remember. Thankfully, there are ways to stay safe and healthy—and help others do so, too—while still connecting with loved ones in a meaningful way.</p>
Building a personal connection with students can counteract some negative side effects of remote learning.
- Not being able to engage with students in-person due to the pandemic has presented several new challenges for educators, both technical and social. Digital tools have changed the way we all think about learning, but George Couros argues that more needs to be done to make up for what has been lost during "emergency remote teaching."
- One interesting way he has seen to bridge that gap and strengthen teacher-student and student-student relationships is through an event called Identity Day. Giving students the opportunity to share something they are passionate about makes them feel more connected and gets them involved in their education.
- "My hope is that we take these skills and these abilities we're developing through this process and we actually become so much better for our kids when we get back to our face-to-face setting," Couros says. He adds that while no one can predict the future, we can all do our part to adapt to it.
This is one of countless studies that prove the positive impact of social connection and intimacy while highlighting the negative impact of isolation and separation.
- New research, led by behavioral neuroscience assistant professor Zoe Donaldson explores what drives our mammalian instinct to create lasting bonds - and what exactly happens when we are apart from people we share those bonds with.
- Studying prairie voles (who fall under the 3-5% of mammals who, along with humans, are monogamous), Donaldson and her team discovered a unique set of cluster cells that light up when reunited with a mate after a period of separation.
- This study is just the tip of new developing research that could lead to groundbreaking new therapies for individuals who struggle with these types of connections, including people with autism, people who struggle with mood disorders, etc.
The study<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzI3ODczOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMTcxNTk2OH0.D4ZtpGSa45kObkdottIAHfo7kUZOEgTYqRIa5W0BfGU/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C96%2C0%2C96&height=700" id="c6538" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e6ea238ddf65b931264da4f544cc0499" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="two prairie voles concept of mating for life monogamous mammals" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
This research ground lead to new therapies for individuals who struggle with this kind of emotional connection.
Photo by torook on Shutterstock<p><strong></strong><strong>Donaldson and her team used tiny cameras and a new technology called in-vivo-calcium imaging to analyze the brains of prairie voles at three separate times:</strong></p><ol><li>During their first encounter with another vole </li><li>Three days after mating with another vole</li><li>20 days after living in the same area as the mate </li></ol> <p>When the voles were together in the same area, their brains looked and reacted the same way. However, after separating the voles, it was discovered that a unique cluster of cells in the nucleus accumbens fired up when they were reunited. </p> <p>In fact, the study proved that the longer the voles had been paired before being separated, the closer their bond became and the glowing cluster that lit up became stronger during their reunion. </p> <p>It's interesting to note that a whole different cluster of cells lit up upon them being introduced to a stranger vole, suggesting that these specific cells may actually be there for the purpose of forming and maintaining bonds with others. </p> <p>This study confirms that monogamous mammals (voles and humans alike) are very uniquely hard-wired to mate with others. We have a unique biological drive that urges us to reunite with people we care for, and this drive can be one of the reasons we fall under the 3-5% of mammals that seek out monogamy. </p><p><strong>What does this mean for the future of human behavior studies?</strong></p><p>As far as research goes, this is quite groundbreaking - as this could potentially give us insight into various kinds of therapies for individuals who are autistic or individuals who struggle with severe depression and/or other disorders that make these kinds of emotional connections difficult.</p> <p>There is still much to learn about these specific series of events that happens when we're reunited with a mate after a period of separation. For example, it's unclear if this "neuronal code", so to speak, is associated with emotion in humans the same way it is associated with desire in voles. </p> <p>According to Donaldson, the research in this department is only just beginning, and the definitive outcome of this study is that mammals are quite literally hardwired to be monogamous mammals. </p>
Social connection and intimacy is essential to our growth and development<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="98492a9dd13c8d8f0ec1e31af0250b8d"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/-jedL7qSxOU?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>This isn't the first time a study like this has been conducted, even though this particular study has unveiled new neuronal clusters that had not been previously accounted for.</p> <p>There have been many other studies of mammals (from small rodents all the way up to human beings) that suggest we are not only hardwired to seek out intimate connections through monogamy, but that we are also extremely and profoundly shaped by (and perhaps even dependent upon) the experiences we have with those mates. </p> <p><a href="https://www.liherald.com/stories/the-power-of-human-connection,102632" target="_blank">Brene Brown</a>, a University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work (who specializes in social connection), explains:</p> <p><em>"A deep sense of love and belonging is an irresistible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs aren't met, we don't function as we were meant to</em>." </p> <p>This idea is backed up by countless studies, including Dr. Helen Fischer's <a href="https://neuro.hms.harvard.edu/harvard-mahoney-neuroscience-institute/brain-newsletter/and-brain/love-and-brain" target="_blank">revolutionary study back in 2005</a>, which included the very first fMRI images of "the brain in love". </p> <p>This study concluded that the human brain doesn't just work to amplify positive emotions when we experience <a href="https://bigthink.com/sex-relationships/breakup-neuroscience?rebelltitem=1#rebelltitem1" target="_self">romantic love</a>, but that the neural pathways responsible for negative emotions (such as fear and anxiety) are actually deactivated. </p>
Someday, presumably, we'll go back to our lives. Our furry buddies will wonder where we went.
- It's great we're getting to enjoy so much more time with our animals, but we may be setting them up for heartbreak.
- Dogs and, yes, even cats may experience separation anxiety when we finally leave our homes at the end of lockdown.
- Best Friends Animal Sanctuary has some suggestions for preparing our pets for that transition one day.
The good thing about quarantine is that it forces us to spend more quality time with our loved ones. That includes our pets, who must be wondering why we never leave anymore. Still, all the extra contact, affection, and cuddling are probably making our pets happier than ever.
One day, though, this will come to an end, and something resembling normal will reassert itself. Off we'll go back to our jobs, leaving our sweet companions to wonder where everyone went.
Dog behavior specialist Janelle Metiva notes, "Most pets don't like sudden and abrupt changes. Instead, try starting now to get your pet ready and ease them back to your previously 'normal' routine more easily."
Metiva works for Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, which has put together some advice on how to prepare our pets for the inevitable separation anxiety that will one day, someday, surely come. It's something to think about now, before our lockdowns end.
We'll have to work out our own separation anxiety.
What would this separation anxiety look like?
Image source: BoulderPhoto/Shutterstock
Telltale signs of separation anxiety might be:
- Unwarranted barking, howling, or whining, particularly for longer than 30 seconds, when you leave
- Scratching or chewing at entrances and exits, including doors and windows
- Destructive behavior when the pet is left alone
- Over-grooming or other self-harm or obsessive behaviors
- A change in appetite.
Advice for dog owners
Image source: Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
If only the average person were as nice as the average dog. Sigh. In any event, Metiva suggests a handful of things you can do top prepare your soft-hearted bud for your departure.
- Create a safe, comfortable place where they can have peaceful, relaxing alone time. This could be a crate or a separate room. Just make sure it's in the quietest part of the house.
- Provide them with enrichment that can be enjoyed independently, such as hidden treats in boxes, food puzzles, stuffed Kongs, etc.
- Play soothing music such as reggae, smooth jazz, or classical, or turn on stations like the BBC or NPR while you're gone to keep them from being startled by outside noises. You can also try a white-noise machine.
- Reward your dog for calm, independent behavior (especially if they're usually clingy). We tend to pay attention to dogs only when they're active or even misbehaving. They should be rewarded for being calm and chill.
It's also a good idea to practice when you go out on an errand or for exercise. If:
- your dog shows signs of panic, decrease the amount of time that you leave, even if for just a few seconds.
- your dog barks or paws at the door when you leave, come back only when they're quiet.
- your dog has trouble being alone for even brief periods of time, consult a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer (CSAT) who may be able to help via a virtual consultation.
Advice for cat owners
Image source: Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
We wouldn't go so far as to say cats' typical seeming indifference is an act, quite, but it can be misleading — and it's exacerbated by their lack of facial expressions. They do care, and if they're often not obvious in their affection, it's no coincidence that they tend to somehow quietly always stay close by. We're not telling most cat owners something they don't already know here.
As Best Friends' cat behavior specialist Samantha Bell puts it, "Despite stereotypes that say otherwise, many cats form very close bonds with their humans and can become quite stressed when apart." In general, she says, "Practicing confidence-building activities and having an enriching environment can help prevent this."
Bell suggests trying the following to help your feline adjust to your absence:
- Engage your cat with a wand toy, shown above, at least once a day. Allowing your cat the opportunity to hunt, catch and kill with an interactive toy will help build their confidence and strengthen their bond with you in the healthiest way possible.
- Ensure that whatever adjustments you've made to their routine while you're home are sustainable when you go back to work. If you've started feeding your cats four times a day while you're home, start cutting it back to what is doable when you're not working from home.
- If you're not already using them, introduce puzzle-feeders to your cat. Cats instinctively want to forage for their food and puzzle-feeders satisfy that instinct while providing fantastic enrichment during alone time.
- Cats feed off from people's emotions. So, when it's time to go back to work, making a big, sad, dramatic scene as you leave is only going to make them feel more stressed. A happy, light tone, and a little treat as you leave will keep their spirits up.
Addicted to love
More time with our pets is for many of us a real gift, an opportunity to shower them with all the attention we don't normally have the time to bestow. We get as much out of it as they do. Love, however, also means caring about someone else's welfare. A little extra thought now can help ensure that this period of closeness leaves our animals happier even after we've gone back to our usual daily nonsense.