ODDS and ENDS
from PSYCHOLOGY TODAY
T he Roaming Empire
alk about a nation on the move:
Almost 20 percent of Americans find a new home each year Trouble is, all this mobility exacts a psychological toll, reports Mindy Eullilove, M.D., a Ncw York- based psychiatrist who has studied the effects of displacement on groups ranging from war refugees to U.S. school kids.
“When people live the American myth of picking up stakes and moving, they give up the sense of security that comes from being rooted in a particular place,” Fulli-love says. Kids who move a lot arc more likely than those who don’t to have big trouble in school, she says, while overly mobile adults tend to focus so much on their jobs that they neglect community activities—everything from local politics to bowling leagues. And frequent movers often suffer from nostalgia, those feelings of longing and homesickness that seventeenth-century physicians believed to he a life-threatening illness.
While for most of us moving may be inevitable, the problems associated with it aren’t. Neighbors can help newcomers adjust by inviting them to participate in activities that create a sense of belonging, and by listening to their remembrances of their former home. “The places in a person’s life can be seen as a string of pearls,” says Fullilove .”No two are alike.”
----Marian M. Jones.
THE GOLF WAR
L OOKING TO IMPROVE YOUR GOLF GAME?
Take a few tips from PSYOPS, the army’s psychological operations unit. “After all, golf is war,’ insists Captain Bruce Ollstein, a former drill instructor and PSYOPS veteran. And since many golf pros claim the sport is 90 percent mental, it’s an ideal forum for some military mind games.
The purpose of PSYOPS is to crumble the enemy’s morale, turning him into “a bumbling nitwit incapable of coherent thought ,“ says Ollstein, author of Combat Golf (Viking, $15.95). In adopting this approach for the links, the old captain’s tongue may be in his cheek—but only partly. Some of Ollstein’s down-and-dirty strategies:
• Hand out some “gimmie~.” Early in a match, concede some easy putts instead of having your opponent go through the motions of knocking the ball in.
(Remember “Pick it up!) Not only does this prevent your rival from developing a putting rhythm, but it denies him or her the psychological boost of seeing thc ball drop in the hole.
• Plant seeds of doubt. Is your opponent about to shoot over a water hazard?
Crack an innocent-sounding joke “there’s enough ocean out there to float a naval division”—to undermine his or her confidence.
• Leave them hanging. While walking toward your opponents ball, launch into a long anecdote or joke—one you won’t be able to finish before the next shot. Very few players will he able to concentrate while wondering how your talc ends.
• Silence is golden. Cut out the small talk, however, after an opponents shot misfires—let ‘em dwell on their mistakes.
PUTTING TIME on YOUR SIDE.
If you run 10Ks or swim competitively, you’re used to racing against the clock. But, you may be overlooking another timekeeper that plays a key role in athletic performance: .your body’s. circadian. rhythms. .Nearly every physical attribute, from strength. to.flexibility, grows more potent over the course of a day, with most peaking between.3 and 6 P.M., .says sleep expert and athletic consultant Roger. Smith, D.O., of Palo Alto, California. For example, anaerobic capacity—the bursts of power we use to sprint short distances or bench press weights—is 8.per-cent higher around dinnertime than it is at breakfast.. For the competitive-minded, an improvement of this sort could easily mean the difference between a personal best and just another sweaty workout.
Not convinced? Smith looked back at 25 years of Monday Night Football games and found that West Coast teams beat their eastern rivals 63 percent of the time. His interpretation: Since Monday night games always begin at 9 P.M. Eastern time, East Coast teams are playing well after their late afternoon prime. But West Coast players ----whose body clocks read 6 P.M. at the opening kickoff—are still at their biological best.
Of course, you probably don’t cross time zones for your weekly tennis match. But what if it’s scheduled for early morning, when strength and quickness are at their daily lows? One study suggests that regularly training at the same time of day you’ll be competing--—whether morning, noon, or night--—may greatly enhance performance..
The Power of Positive Thinking.
At one time or another nearly everyone over the age of 30 has received a birthday card joking about declining memory or other common ailments of old age. Now a study suggests that such negative portrayals of aging may actually help bring about the memory problems they lampoon.
In one part of the study, Harvard University researcher Becca Levy, Ph.D., asked volunteers aged 60 or over to press either the up or down arrow on a keyboard each time a word was flashed on a computer monitor. Some participants were shown words with negative connotations about aging, such as senile and incompetent while other folks saw terms with more positive associations, such as wise or alert.
Each word was visible for such a brief period of time—anywhere from a tenth to a twentieth of a second—that the participants couldn’t actually read them . Even so, subjects shown words that reinforced negative views of th. elderly later performed more poorly on memory tests than folks who saw the positive words, Levy reports in the Journal of Personality and Socia l Psychology. So negative stereotypes may become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, especially if we’re not conscious that we’ve been exposed to them. “This shows how insidious our views of aging are,” Levy says. Maybe it’s no coincidence that in an earlier cross- cultural study Levy found that views of aging are particularly positive in China-----where elders far outperform their American counterparts on memory tests.
DON’T GAMBLE WHEN YOU’RE ANXIOUS!
W HY DO PEOPLE IN BAD MOODS SO OFTEN ACT IN VERY SELF-DESTRUCTIVE WAYS? WHY?
Because a foul mood impairs our ability to assess risks, contends psycho-logist Roy Baumeister, Ph.D., of Case Western Reserve University. Bau-meister put 48 male college students in either a good, bad, or neutral mood and then offered them a chance to play one of two lotteries. In the first game the best chances of winning were excellent but the payoff was small; the second offered a bigger jackpot but such long odds that most rational people would shun it for sure (especially since losers had to listen to a recording of fingernails scratching a blackboard, really.) Participants who were anxious or annoyed, Baumeister found, were far more likely to place the riskier bet than were those who felt good, suggesting that bad moods interfere with rational decision making.
The good news? Even those in a bad mood preferred the more sensible lottery if instructed to weigh the pros and cons of each option before coming to a decision. So folks who are feeling foul might be especially wise to think before they act! —Diriha Kaplan
THE COST OF COPING.
Human beings have an uncanny ability to adapt to inhospitable environments.
Cities with loud traffic, dirty air and crowded conditions, for example. But we may pay a price for that flexibility says Gary Evans, Ph.D., of Cornell University. The word ‘coping’ has come to havc a positive connotation,,” says the famous psychologist, but coping brings had stuff too.
Our attempts to deal turn destructive when we ‘overgeneralize,” or continue apply coping strategies even when they’re no longer needed. The strategies then also become problems in themselves.
Children subjected to loud noise from a nearby’ airport, for instance, teach themselves to tune out sounds so they can concentrate. But that means they’re also screening out speech, and their lower reading scores show that they’re missing out on opportunities to learn the subtleties of language. Likewise, people who live inn extremely crowded conditions learn to withdraw socially and to create internal space. This withdrawal eventually affects their personal relationships, however, ; research has found that the more people you live with, the less social support you have.
It’s better cope than to fall apart, Evans concludes, but better yet to get rid of the problem itself. —A.M.P.
EMOTIONS in MOTION.
It seems that we’re always chasing the high of a good mood or struggling to lift ourselves out of a bad one. But it may be that the mood we’re meant to be in most of the time is somewhere in the middle.
Psychologist Charles Kimble, Ph.D., and his student Lourdes Maria de Ia Uz, both of the University of Dayton, found that people could quite easily put themselves in a positive mood by watching a Robin Williams skit or by listening to classical music (in this case, an appropriately-titled ‘divertimento” by Mozart). Reading a series of upbeat statements, such as “I’m full of energy and ambition,” and “I feel happy and playful today,” also worked.
But these good vibrations didn’t last long. After a short while, people began to neutralize their positive feelings, sometimes by recalling negative memories from their own lives. “I don’t know why someone would want to get out of a good mood, but we seem to have a built-in tendency to restore a neutral state,” remarks Kimble . ‘People are psychologically inclined to moderate their emotional reactions.”
The only exception: when the experimenters told their subjects they were trying to get them into a good mood, study participants obliged them by remaining in high spirits and generating positive memories. It was only when people were left on their own to regulate their mood—a state of affairs that is closer to real life—that they brought themselves down.
‘There’s a theory in psychology that contends that whenever your feel an emotion, you later experience the opposite emotion in a milder form” Kimble comments This phenomenon could explain why we feel exhilarated after being very anxious (think of the experience of a first-time skydiver) or why we feel unexpectedly down after an enjoyable event
YOUR HEART’S DESIRES
WHAT MAKES US DO THE THINGS WE DO?
There’s not one reason , but 15, according to research into what makes us tick. Knowing which of these fundamental desires is in play can push us to perform better, help us predict others’ behavior and even offer an early diagnosis of mental illness, according to Steven Reiss, M.D., Ph.D.
The Ohio State University professor of psychology and psychiatry says that although any one of the 15 desires may be uppermost at a given moment, we each have a characteristic pattern of needs. He’s devised a test, called the Relss Profiles, which measures the differences in what people value. Results can be used to guide people in their career or lifestyle choices, he says, or to anticipate how others will behave.
The link between desire and behavior holds true even for the mentally ill, maintains Reiss: “They behave in unusual ways because they care about unusual things.” Schlzophrenics, for example, score very low on need for social contact, while alcohol and drug abusers are off the scale on the desire to avoid pain. These odd irregularities may show up in the profile long before the disorder itself, allowing psychologists to identify such people as vulnerable.
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JUST THE BASICS
* AVOIDANCE: desire to avoid pain and anxiety
• CITIZENSHIP; desire for public service and social justice
• CURI0SITY: desire to learn and explore
• FAMILY: desire to spend time with relatives
• FOOD: desire to eat
• HONOR: desire to adhere to a code of conduct
• INDEPENDENCE: desire for autonomy
• ORDER: desire for organization and coherence
• PHYSICAL EXERCISE: desire for movement and exertion
• POWER: desire for control
• REJECTION; desire to avoid social rebuffs
• SEX : desire for sexual gratification
• SOCIAL CONTACT: desire for companionship
• SOCIAL PRESTIGE: desire for recognition
• VENGEANCE; desire to retaliate
A Different Shade of Blue
While traditional gender roles have discouraged women from speaking their minds, they’ve also kept men from listening to their hearts. Since many men are unable to express or acknowledge their emotions, even their families and friends often aren’t aware when they are depressed, says Cambridge, Massachusetts, family therapist Terrence Real, author of I Don’t Want to Talk About It (Scribner, $24).
Although women suffer from mood disorders at nearly twice the rate of men, T. Real contends that depression is vastly underdiagnosed in men because it manifests itself in different ways than female depression does . A man you know may be depressed, says Real, if he’s been acting more aggressively; having more difficulty being intimate and making emotional connections; becoming a workaholic; or just “medicating” himself with alcohol or drugs.
Unfortunately, ordinary folks aren’t the only ones subject to gender misconceptions about depression. Real cites an experiment in which psychologists were given a hypothetical case study of one of two depressed patients—a male and a female with identical symptoms. Despite the patients’ sameness, the psychologists were more likely to judge the male patient’s condition as “severe” than the female’s.
Apparently, even experts believe that if a man out-wardly displays the signs, he must be really depressed.
THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME.
John Gray, Ph.D.—the relationship guru with the correspondence-course psychology degree—asserted that Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. And his book’s lengthy stay on the best-seller lists suggests that men and women still can’t figure each other out.
Even so, you’d think the mental gap between the sexes would have narrowed some among younger people raised in more equality-minded times. No such luck. When Harvard Medical School’s William Pollack, Ph.D., asked college students to share their thoughts about the opposite sex, the responses were depressingly familiar. Below, the top three things each sex still finds most puzzling about the other:
•Why do women need romance and to be in love in order to have sex?
•Why are women so emotionally unstable?
•Why do they make a big deal out of trivial stuff like remembering birthdays?
•How can men have sex with you when they don’t love you?
•Why are men so afraid of their emotions?
•Why don’t they remember important things like anniversaries?
ANATOMY of an ALTRUIST
I s a mensch born or made?
In-depth interviews with more than a hundred humanitarians reveal a surprisingly clear answer. Though they tend to have certain things in common, every single person shared one experience in particular : “a transformative engagement with ‘the other,”’ according to Cheryl Keen, Ld.D. Early in life, “these people got to know someone very well who they previously thought as very different from them” say’s Keen of Autioch College in Ohio . “By working or studying or just traveling together, they came to understand that the person was more like thcm than not.
And, she say’s, that experience “jolted their idea of who they were and where they stood in the world, challenging their previously held assumptions about who was ‘one of us’ and who was not.”
Other traits shared by these good samaritans includc: an awareness of thc complexity and interrelatedness of human problems; an unwillingness to fence off their philanthropic work from the rest of their lives; and an ability to turn anger, sorrow, and other negative emotions into a force for good.
“These are neither heroes nor martyrs nor saints,’ insists Keen, co-author of a book on the study findings, Common Fire: Leading Lives of Commitment in a Complex World. (Beacon Press). Along with charity and compassion, her subjects confessed to some all—too—human motives for helping others: anger, ambition, personal issues.
Still, an awareness of their limitations became the source of some of their staying power. “They’ recognize that you don’t have to do it all,’ say’s Keen. ‘You just have to begin the work.
ONLY THE LONELY.
Confidence, most would agree, makes social life a lot smoother. It also makes it a lot safer. It’s the single best shield against bullying, says David Perry, Ph.D. His studies show that kids who lack confidence in their standing with peers meet a vicious cycle of victimization.
Most kids are picked on by a bully at some point; only about 10 percent are repeat-edly abused . No one before has gone inside a child’s mind to see how he thinks,” says Perry, professor of psychology at Florida Atlantic University. “Our work re-centers the locus of victimization in a child’s self-concept.”
Perry tracked 187 kids, 11 years old, from the fall to the spring. Among those increasingly picked on, all lacked confidence in their social competence. By spring, he reports in Developmental Psychology, their poor sense of social self-efficacy had devastated their entire self-worth. In addition, they now had less confidence in their ability to stand up for themselves.
Having poor social skills and—especially— lacking agreeableness lead children to a self-deprecating identity, which makes them hesitate to assert their needs. It also broadcasts poor self-regard, which invites abuse and further wrecks self-confidence
Agreeableness is particularly powerful; through it, children communicate to others that they like them. Other kids are then inclined to reciprocate the liking. Social confidence isn’t just kid stuff. Peer relations not only shape development but are also rehearsals for adult relationships
—Ham Estroff Marano
When Speed Slows You Down
You’d expect amphetamines—commonly known as ‘~uppers” and “speed”—to rev up the entire brain at once. But a recent study shows that the drugs are in fact amazingly selective, boosting activity in some parts of our mind while actually calming other areas, according to Daniel Weinberger, Ph.D., a psychologist at the National Institute of Mental Health.
Weinberger and his colleagues gave amphetamines to eight men and women, then had them work on an abstract reasoning test that placed heavy demands on the prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain important for short-term memory. (You’re using it to store what you’ve read of this article.) Later, the subjects were asked to shift to a task that used a different part of their brain, the hippocampus.
All the while, the researchers were PET scanning the participants’ brains to see which regions were most active.
Surprisingly, the drugs only enhanced activity In the brain area engaged in the task at hand—the prefrontal cortex, for example, in people working on the reasoning test. In the parts of the brain not being taxed, meanwhile, amphetamines acted like a wet blanket. So when Weinberger’s subjects switched to the second task, their hippocampus lit up and their cortex calmed down. “This Is probably what paying attention is all about,” says Weinberger. The finding, moreover, could help now explain a long-mysterious paradox: why Ritalin---- a type of amphetamine widely prescribed for attention deficit disorder (ADD)-.—helps calm many kids with ADD instead of making them more hyperactive.
Magazine advertisers know they have just
three seconds to reel you in.
That’s the average length of time a reader looks at an ad before flipping the page. Now the battle for your bucks is taking a high-tech turn, thanks to a device once originally developed to detect neurological problems.
The instrument, called the Vision 2000, can reveal which ads—and which parts of them—best attract readers. While a tiny head-mounted video-camera records every-thing within a person’s field of view, the device measures his orher eye position at 120 times each second. The resulting videotape-----which includes a dancing dot of light representing the exact location of a viewer’s gaze— tells marketers which words and images readers lingered over and which they ignored.
In clinics and hospitals, eye-tracking machines have a far more noble purpose: diagnosing brain and eye injuries. For example, some dizzy spells stem from a psychological problem, while others are caused by damage to a brain region that helps us keep our balance. But only brain-injured individuals have trouble moving their eyes in time with a computer image—a symptom the machine readily detects, says Moshe Eizenman, Ph.D., professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Toronto. As for Madison Avenue, eye-tracking technology won’t reveal whether readers intend to buy the product portrayed in an ad, notes Gerald Grundland, president of Toronto’s VisionTrack marketing firm . But if our eyes are drawn to an advertisement’s evocative photo or funny catch phrase, marketers can be sure that their message is at least getting noticed.
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