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Hope Together: How One Partner's Belief in Good Outcomes Affects the Relationship
Pregnancy is proving to be a crucial time to study the effects of hope and optimism within a relationship.
Eshkol Rafaeli: My name is Eshkol Rafaeli. I’m a psychologist and a relationship researcher from Bar-Ilan University in Israel, and I’ve been involved with the Hope and Optimism Initiative for the past couple of years as one of the grantees on the social science side. This initiative funded a research project that we are nearing the completion of now. It’s a study looking at couples in the transition to parenthood, couples who are expected their first child who we follow for a period of time, starting in the third trimester of pregnancy all the way through at this point six months postpartum. We’re actually hoping to continue this work and be able to follow them through one year and then two years after the child is born. We do this work both because we’re really interested in this population of couples in this juncture of time. It is so full of expectations but also fears and dreads. So we’re interested in the population and we’re also interested in this quality of hope and trying to see—through use of this population—to see something about the nature of hope. To try to understand something about, what hope is at the level of not just one individual but in this case a couple or family, an emerging family.
We have three premises that guide our work. Two of them are already underway and the third one is more of a future direction that we’re hoping to pursue. The two that are underway are looking at hope as more than just a stable quality, an individual characteristic that differentiates one person from another or maybe one couple from another, instead recognizing that hope has this fluctuating component to it—that it could change over time, that there are ways in which the stability or instability in it beyond just a set level could be really interesting and important. So this dynamic quality of hope is one thing we’re looking at. And we do that by having these partners, these couples, tell us about their hope, expectation, and optimism repeatedly. We do this both in the long range of things, so following them from prepartum through postpartum over the course of these basically nine months from the third trimester through six months after birth, but also for a period of time around three months after they give birth we have them complete daily diaries for a period of three weeks where we look at fluctuations on a daily basis. We ask them to report their own feelings and to impute feelings about their partner so that we’ll be able to see how these things change from moment to moment. So that’s one premise or one idea that we have in our work.
A second idea that I alluded to earlier is the idea that hope is more than just an individual characteristic, that there’s something about it that could be interesting to explore or to understand at the level of a system, a dyad in this case— a pair of people. We’re curious whether hope is contagious. For that you need these two people’s reports of their own hopes to see whether one person’s hope affects the other over time. We were wondering whether it’s compensatory, whether the presence of hope for one could carry them through difficult periods like the sleepless days that come after birth or the prepartum period where there’s often a lot of anxiety about what this will be like, what parenting will become like. Is it enough for one person to have hope for both partners or do we really need it to be high for both? Those are two premises that we have the data for, at least in part. We’re still waiting for the last of those couples in our sample to complete the three month and six month postpartum, but thankfully all the people that we recruited in this study have, by now, given birth to healthy babies which was a relief. And we’ve been starting to look at the data mostly from the prepartum phase at this point.—so the data before the child was born. And we saw some interesting things already. One of them is that it seemed that it’s the expectant mother's hope much more so than the expectant father's that seems to have effects both for these expectant mothers themselves—their sense of relationship satisfaction, their sense of wellbeing in the world was tied to their own hope—but so were their partners'.
So the women’s hope seems to have both a direct effect on their own feelings, wellbeing, satisfaction, and on their partners. And we didn’t find the counterpart effect from the men’s hope. In other words there’s something about this period, maybe—we’ll have to see whether it’s just this period—that gives extra weight to hope on these expectant mothers more than the expectant fathers' side. One of the things we want to explore is whether this will shift, maybe even flip over or at least balance itself out postpartum. We think it might. We think that there’s something about the kind of experience that expectant mothers have that just by the sheer fact that they are the one carrying the baby that makes them much more connected to thinking about what parenthood will be like, thinking about the baby, and that the fathers, is in a sense, may not be quite getting it until after childbirth happens, after they become parents. So we’re expecting that something will change with this postpartum and maybe that the greater exhaustion that new mothers seem to have may wash out this effect of hope. Maybe there won’t be much hope—we do see some drops in hope postpartum from what they’ve peaked at but really it’s too early to tell whether it’s really a serious drop or just a minor drop in hope levels.
Okay, so these two premises that we’ve been exploring in data are that hope fluctuates, that it’s dynamic, and that hope is a quality of the couple, that it’s dyadic. We have a third premise, but that’s one that we’re going to be exploring in our next project, we’re really interested to see whether hope is malleable. Whether we can change it. And to do that we’re planning a study that applies some research on mental imagery; hope has a strong imagery component as many of the other speakers at this festival have talked about. There’s a daydreaming component. There’s an imaginal component to hope and we are emphasizing this imaginal component in this next piece of our work. We want to see whether we can train people, in this case couples, to imagine their desired outcomes, these things that they hope for, in a more or less effective way. We’re going to be doing this as a randomized study where some of the couples receive this seemingly logical intervention of like, 'Let’s imagine the future and let’s think about these positive outcomes that will happen,' which on the face of it sounds like it would be a way to increase hope. But in reality it’s going to be—or we think is going to be—less effective than a different kind of intervention where we have them imagine these desired outcomes but we also have them imagine the obstacles and the way to get around these obstacles to get to these outcomes.
Work from motivational psychologists and health psychologists has shown that this sort of process—it’s often called mental contrasting—where you think about what you want, you really imagine it, but you also think about what’s going to block your progress towards that desired goal leads to more effective hope. Leads to more effective accomplishment of these things that people want for themselves. We want to see whether this happens here. We want to see whether doing this in the context of a relationship where we’ll have one of, probably one of my graduate students, Ph.D. students in psychology, delivering this but in the presence of the partner as well. So we’re going to have both partners in the room and we’ll switch and do a similar kind of intervention with both of them in mind. Whether this kind of work can actually increase hope in a sustainable way and lead them to accomplish or fulfill the expectations that they have for what it will be like to be parents and for what it will be like to be a couple after the child has arrived in a more effective way.
"The smallest indivisible human unit is two people, not one," wrote Pulitzer Prize-winner Tony Kushner, and Professor Eshkol Rafaeli and his team at the Affect and Relationships Lab at Bar-Ilan University have taken that to heart. Funded by the Hope & Optimism initiative, they have been investigating how hope functions in a couple—or a 'dyad', the most romantic term of all—especially as a dyad becomes a triad. Their research focuses on the emotional and mental health of couples having their first child, as it's a major life transition. So does hope fluctuate? Is it contagious? Must both be hopeful, or is one optimist enough to carry everyone through? Here, Rafaeli discusses his team's findings, and future work. This video was filmed as part of the Los Angeles Hope Festival, a collaboration between Big Think and Hope & Optimism.
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Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</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>
Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.
A time for sleep<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="Mt29uUqI" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="931343dee3c02121445e51e94ba22446"> <div id="botr_Mt29uUqI_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/Mt29uUqI-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/Mt29uUqI-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/Mt29uUqI-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>Previous studies had already suggested a link between persistent nightmares in childhood and psychosis and borderline personality disorder (BPD) by adolescence, but researchers at the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology wanted to see if a similar connection existed between these mental disorders and other childhood behavioral sleep problems.</p><p>To do this, they scoured data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, a longitudinal cohort study that followed approximately 14,000 children born in Avon, England, in the early 1990s. The study followed the children for more than 13 years. During that time, mothers filled out questionnaires asking about the children's lives. Factors looked at included housing, parenting, nutrition, physical health, mental wellbeing, environmental exposures, and so on. </p><p>The cohort study inquired about sleep routines, sleep duration, and awakening frequency when the children were 6, 18, and 30 months old, and then again at 3.5, 4.8, and 5.8 years. It also assessed mental health in adolescence using semi-structured interviews, such as the Psychosis-Like Symptom Interview.</p><p>"We know that adolescence is a key developmental period to study the onset of many mental disorders, including psychosis or BPD. This is because of particular brain and hormonal changes which occur at this stage," <a href="https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/staff/profiles/psychology/marwaha-steven.aspx" target="_blank">Steven Marwaha</a>, professor of psychiatry at Birmingham and senior author on the study, <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/07/200701125431.htm" target="_blank">said in a release</a>. "Sleep may be one of the most important underlying factors—and it's one that we can influence with effective, early interventions, so it's important that we understand these links."</p><p>After compiling the data, the researchers discovered an association between children with irregular sleeping patterns and teenagers with <a href="https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/psychosis/about-psychosis/" target="_blank">psychotic experiences</a>—that is, episodes when the person perceives reality differently than those around them. Even when depression at 10 years old was considered as a mediating factor, their findings still suggested "a specific pathway between these childhood sleep problems and adolescent psychotic experiences." </p><p>Toddlers with shorter nighttime sleep duration and late bedtimes were likewise associated with a <a href="https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/borderline-personality-disorder/index.shtml" target="_blank">borderline personality disorder</a>—a disorder marked by a pattern of varying moods, self-images, and behaviors—in their teenage years. Depression at age 10 did not mediate this particular association, suggesting a separate and more specific pathway. </p>
A more restful tomorrow<p>While the sample size was large and mental health was assessed with a validated interview, there nevertheless remain limitations to this data. For starters, sleep habits were based on mothers' reports. Because they came from memory, versus a more direct observation method such as actigraphy, these data may be prone to imperfect recollection and reporting error. There are also many confounders that could be secretly nudging the results, such as family conditions, prenatal medicines, and a host of environmental factors. Finally, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6024884/#:~:text=Sleep%20difficulties%20in%20youth%20with,fear%20of%20dark%20%5B13%5D." target="_blank">the relationship between sleep problems and mental disorders</a> is both complex and two-way.</p><p>As such, the study shows an association between poor childhood sleep later mental disorders but does not prove a causal link. Parents need not worry that a string of nightmares or the eternal struggle settle into bed will be the first ingredients in a witches' brew of debilitating mental disorders. The goal of the study, the researchers point out, is not to create undue worry but improve our ability to recognize the signs of at-risk children and deliver necessary interventions earlier.</p><p>"The results of this study could have important implications for helping practitioners identify children who might be at higher risk for psychotic experiences or BPD symptoms in adolescence, and potentially lead to the design of more effectively targeted sleep or psychological interventions to prevent the onset or attenuate these mental disorders," Isabel Morales-Muñoz, the study's lead researcher, <a href="https://www.healio.com/news/psychiatry/20200702/childhood-sleep-problems-linked-to-adolescent-psychosis-borderline-personality-disorder#:~:text=Sleep%20problems%20during%20early%20childhood,study%20published%20in%20JAMA%20Psychiatry." target="_blank">told Healio Psychiatry</a><u>.</u></p><p>If a parent reading this is worried that their child's sleep patterns are deleterious, the take away should not be despair over an unyielding fate. It should be to seek professional help as soon as possible to begin improving sleep duration and quality. Even if you aren't worried, it's worth remembering that childhood experiences lay the foundation for a lifetime of salubrious sleeping habits. It's so much more than beauty rest.</p>
Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?
- From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
- "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
- Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.