Introversion vs Extraversion

Introversion and extroversion are probably two of the most widely known personality traits. Stereotypically, an introvert is characterised by someone who is quiet and shy, and prefers to spend time alone. In contrast, an extrovert is usually loud and boisterous, and always needs to be surrounded by people.

The words extrovert and introvert were first popularised almost 100 years ago by Carl Jung in 1921. Introverts prefer the inner world and to focus on their thoughts, whereas extroverts prefer the external world of activities and other people. Introverts also gain their energy from being alone, whereas extroverts recharge by socialising with others.

In modern society, it is extroverts who are praised and rewarded; being called ‘quiet’ is often a negative adjective. In her book ‘Quiet’, Susan Cain explores why the extrovert has become the ideal, and made me realise that there is far more to introversion and extroversion than the stereotypes described above.

For example, Cain describes introversion and extroversion as opposing ends of a scale. People can be firmly at one end, but they can also be somewhere in the middle – known as ambiversion. People can also be extremely different depending on their current situation, with introverts who normally prefer peace and quiet able to enjoy performing on stage in front of thousands. This is characterised by the “person-situation” debate in psychology – are personality traits fixed, or do they just depend on the situation that the person is in? Psychologists on the “person” side argue that we have fixed personality traits which are based on our biology, whilst those on the “situation” side believe that we do not have core traits, but a range of traits which we exhibit in certain situations.

One psychologist in favour of the “person” side of the debate is Hans Eysenck, who developed his personality theory around levels of stimulation – the amount of input we are receiving from external factors. He used this to explain introverts and extroverts, with extroverts preferring higher levels of stimulation than introverts, and so seeking it through spending more time in social situations. The amount of stimulation you prefer has a biological basis, with Eysenck hypothesising that an area of the brain known as the ARAS (see image below) involved is in controlling the balance of stimulation. He believed that the ARAS functioned differently in introverts and extroverts, which is why extroverts seek stimulation, whilst introverts retreat from it (Eysenck, 2017).

ARAS

Although psychologists now think that things are a bit more complicated that Eysenck’s theory, there is some evidence to suggest the basis of it is true. In one of his famous experiments, he put a drop of lemon juice on the tongues of introverts and extroverts and measured the amount of saliva they produced (which showed how stimulating they found the juice). He found that introverts produced more saliva to this stimulus, as they are more sensitive to stimulation (Eysenck & Eysenck, 1967). Another study asked introverts and extroverts to take part in a task whilst wearing headphones which randomly played bursts of noise. Participants were asked to set the level of this noise to what was most comfortable for them, and results showed introverts set this level at an average of 55 decibels, compared to 72 decibels for the extroverts. When introverts had to do the task with the same noise level as the extroverts (or vice versa) they performed much worse, despite their performance being equal before (Geen, 1984).

Research such as this suggests there is a biological basis to whether we are more introverted or extroverted. Which category do you think you would best fit in to?

Thanks for reading and if you want to find out more about this topic I’d definitely recommend reading Susan Cain’s book – referenced below.

References – as mentioned in Cain, 2013:

Cain, S., 2013. Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. Broadway Books.

Eysenck, S.B. and Eysenck, H.J., 1967. Salivary response to lemon juice as a measure of introversion. Perceptual and motor skills24(3_suppl), pp.1047-1053.

Eysenck, H., 2017. The biological basis of personality. Routledge.

Geen, R.G., 1984. Preferred stimulation levels in introverts and extroverts: Effects on arousal and performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology46(6), p.1303.

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Creativity

Creativity – why does it come naturally for some, but others struggle to use their imagination? What are the best ways to encourage creativity  and how do you be more creative? These are just some of the questions I’ve got about creativity, and I’d love to know how to beat the creative block. Read more to see what I found out..

creativity

When thinking about why some people are more creative than others, it might be useful to start looking at which parts of the brain are involved in creative thinking. One study involved participants with lesions in different parts of their brain, and investigated their ability to generate original ideas (Shamay-Tsoory et al, 2011). They compared their performance in a creative thinking test which involved generating novel images, and thinking of new uses for objects. Researchers found that having a lesion in the right medial prefrontal cortex (see below) had impaired creative thinking, whilst participants who had a lesion in the left medial prefrontal cortex actually had enhanced creative ability. The researchers hypothesised that this result could be explained by language lateralisation – language is controlled by the left side of the brain, and could normally interfere with the creative process. Therefore, when this part of the brain is damaged, our creativity improves.

prefrontal-cortex

Another recent study has examined why some people are more creative than others (Beaty et al, 2018). They used fMRI imaging to scan the brains of participants whilst they took part in a creative problem solving task, and identified a network of structures which was used for generating creative ideas. The researchers then compared the strength of the connections between these areas in people who had low or high creativity scores, and found that the people who had the strongest connections between different brain structures came up with better ideas during the task.

However looking at brain structure isn’t enough, and would be oversimplifying the impact of our physical and social environments on our ability to be creative (Damasio, 2001). Damasio argued that in order to be creative, we must meet the following criteria:

  • the motivation to create
  • the courage to face scrutiny and criticism
  • extensive experience and expertise (e.g. to know what has been done before, what is original)
  • insight into your own mind, and the minds of others
  • the ability to generate and recall a variety of images
  • a large working memory capacity, to be able to hold these images in mind at the same time
  • the ability to make decisions, to choose which ideas to keep and which to discard

When trying to improve our creative performance, one study has examined the role of seeing examples in helping creativity and generating novel ideas (Kulkarni et al, 2012). Participants in a creativity task were either shown examples early, late, or repeatedly in the process, and their performance was compared with those who didn’t see any examples.  They found that seeing examples anywhere in the creative process reduced originality, and that participants who saw examples also produced fewer drawings. The authors hypothesised that this result could be because viewing examples raises the bar of what is an ‘acceptable idea’, so they spent more time refining current ideas as opposed to generating new ones. However, participants who saw examples early in the process were judged to have improved creativity, as measured by number of novel features of drawings and subjective ratings of performance.

 

References:

Beaty, R.E., Kenett, Y.N., Christensen, A.P., Rosenberg, M.D., Benedek, M., Chen, Q., Fink, A., Qiu, J., Kwapil, T.R., Kane, M.J. and Silvia, P.J., 2018. Robust prediction of individual creative ability from brain functional connectivity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, p.201713532.

Damasio, A.R., 2001. Some notes on brain, imagination and creativity. The origins of creativity, pp.59-68.

Kulkarni, C., Dow, S.P. and Klemmer, S.R., 2014. Early and repeated exposure to examples improves creative work. In Design thinking research (pp. 49-62). Springer International Publishing.

Shamay-Tsoory, S.G., Adler, N., Aharon-Peretz, J., Perry, D. and Mayseless, N., 2011. The origins of originality: the neural bases of creative thinking and originality. Neuropsychologia49(2), pp.178-185.

image reference: http://www.psypost.org/2017/06/depressed-people-medial-prefrontal-cortex-exerts-control-parts-brain-49168

 

 

 

In the Zone

Have you ever had that feeling when you’re working on something where you are totally focused on the task and don’t notice time passing? This feeling of being completely absorbed and ‘in the zone’ is known in the field of psychology as flow. It has been described by one researcher as being the “optimal experience” under which to perfom (Csikszentmihályi, 1990).

According to Nakamura & Csikszentmihalyi (2014), this state has the following features:

  • Intense concentration
  • Merging action and awareness
  • Loss of reflective self-consciousness (loss of self-awareness)
  • Feeling in control of your actions
  • Feeling as though time is passing quicker than normal
  • Feeling as though the task is rewarding

Whilst being enjoyable, research has shown that flow can also improve our performance in a range of situations, including sport, music and work (Young & Pain, 1999; Wrigley & Emmerson, 2013; & Bryce & Haworth, 2002). Flow is also commonly experienced whilst playing video games, and games are designed to make sure that players can stay in the flow state for as long as possible (Murphy, 2012) – which is what makes them so addictive!

However not every task can result in flow. If it is too hard, or so easy that we get bored and start to relax, we don’t experience flow.  Researchers in Denmark have investigated the workplace activities which can result in increased feelings of flow, and found that taking part in planning, problem solving and evaluation predicted a transient flow state (Neilson & Cleal, 2010). These activities all fit into the above criteria – being hard enough to be interesting but not so hard that they cause feelings of frustration.

Flow_State_large

As flow has been shown to improve performance, are there any ways we can practice entering this state of mind?

Nakamura & Csikszentmihalyi (2014) argue that entering flow is all about our attention, or more specifically our ability to keep our attention focused on the task at hand. If we want to enter the flow state then we need to make sure that the task is challenging, with clear goals and appropriate feedback on our performance to ensure prolonged motivation. If we meet the challenges of a task we increase our skill, which means we can attempt slightly harder activities with a chance of succeeding, meaning we stay in the flow state (see diagram above).

As well as helping us improve our task performance, there is evidence to suggest that flow can also have longer lasting positive effects (Demerouti et al, 2012). One study measured levels of flow during working hours and found that workers who experienced flow had more energy at the end of the day.  When we’re busy or stressed at work, maybe it would be beneficial to structure tasks to help us enter a state of flow, both to improve our performance, and make sure we’re not too exhausted at the end of the day.

 

References:

Bryce, J., & Haworth, J. (2002). Wellbeing and flow in sample of male and female office workers. Leisure Studies, 21, 249 –263

Csikszentmihályi, M. 1990 “FLOW: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” Harper & Row.

Csikszentmihalyi, M., 1997. Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. HarperPerennial, New York, 39.

Demerouti, E., Bakker, A.B., Sonnentag, S. and Fullagar, C.J., 2012. Work‐related flow and energy at work and at home: A study on the role of daily recovery. Journal of Organizational Behavior33(2), pp.276-295.

Murphy, C., 2012. Why games work and the science of learning.

Nakamura, J. and Csikszentmihalyi, M., 2014. The concept of flow. In Flow and the foundations of positive psychology (pp. 239-263). Springer Netherlands.

Nielsen, K. and Cleal, B., 2010. Predicting flow at work: Investigating the activities and job characteristics that predict flow states at work. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology15(2), p.180.

Wrigley, W.J. and Emmerson, S.B., 2013. The experience of the flow state in live music performance. Psychology of Music41(3), pp.292-305.

Young, J.A. and Pain, M.D., 1999. The zone: Evidence of a universal phenomenon for athletes across sports. Athletic Insight: the online journal of sport psychology1(3), pp.21-30.

image reference https://www.optimoz.com.au/blogs/news/174434951-how-to-foster-the-flow-state

 

Why do we find things scary?

Happy Halloween!

Ever wondered why you don’t like clowns, or why just hearing creepy music on a film makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end? Today’s blog post is keeping things topical and asking why is it that we find certain things scary.

Image result for halloween

When we watch a scary film, it can activate the same part of the brain which would become active if we were under a real threat – the amygdala. This is part of the limbic system, and is thought to be responsible for processing aspects of memory and emotion. One particular function of the amygdala is to trigger the ‘fight or flight’ response to threatening stimuli – that feeling of fear where you don’t know whether to stand your ground or run away and hide.

From an evolutionary perspective, feeling fear is helpful. It would have been useful for our ancestors to be scared of snakes or poisonous spiders – stay away from these things and you’re more likely to survive. But what about when there’s no current threat, why do we get scared by a film, or a creepy picture?

One argument as to why we find some things creepy is that they contain an element of uncertainty. We find a clown, or someone wearing a mask scary because we can’t see their face, meaning we can’t use social cues to help us understand what is going on. The ‘bad guy’ in horror movies is often covered with a mask, or is a monster with distorted facial features, or in some cases completely covered by a hood, so no features are visible at all. We tend to feel uneasy when we see figures which look human, but not completely human. There is something off about them – think staring emotionless faces or someone wearing blacked out contact lenses. This uncertainty causes us to feel uneasy – there is no recognisable threat but the ambiguity causes a partial fear response in the brain and gives us the impression that something’s creepy. This theory can also be applied to people who are scared of the dark – it’s the not knowing what’s out there which causes fear

Sometimes, it’s not even things we see which make us feel scared, but things we hear. Ever wondered why the chords of the music to Jaws or the shower scene in Psycho are so iconically scary? Dan Blumstein, an academic at UCLA and expert on animal distress calls hypothesises that sounds made by animals in distress (think a piglet screaming or a dog barking) called ‘nonlinear chaotic noise’ also cause an emotional response in humans. He  argues that horror films use scores which feature these same characteristics: harsh, unpredictable or sudden higher sounds to provoke a kind of biological response which increases arousal (our emotional response). He tested his theory, and found that participants who were played different melodies scored sounds as being more negative if the melodies suddenly went higher, mimicking a scream, as opposed to lower.

Uncertainty is also what causes certain sounds to appear scary. Hearing a creak on the stairs is fine, if you can see someone walking up them. What makes that creak sound scary is when we can’t see the cause. Our minds start racing to think of possible explanations, and more often than not we choose something scary to fill the gap.

stephen king

 

 

 

Confirmation Bias

Hi everyone, this week’s post is an expansion of a brain teaser that I wrote a few months ago about whether we are innately logical – to read that and see how you get on in a test of logic check here. In this, I explained that we tend to fail at classic logic tests because we look for information that supports what we already know, rather than taking all available information into consideration to make our judgments – this is called confirmation bias. It operates in 2 ways: by selective searching for information, and biased interpretation of information.

Once you think about it, it’s surprisingly common in everyday situations. People have superstitions because they notice a link between a certain action and a result, so every they will continue to carry out that action. They do this even if it doesn’t always work – these instances are ignored, but every time the superstition ‘works’ it sticks in their memory and reinforces their actions.

Although this is a relatively simple example, the way we use reasoning has important implications, for example in the criminal justice system. Members of the jury must consider all the information presented to them in order to come up with the correct decision. However, several psychological studies have shown that people’s judgments are easily affected by prejudice and personal expectations, or by a piece of evidence which seems to fit.

For example, Ask & Granhag (2005) asked both criminal investigators and students to read facts about a murder case, but manipulated information so that half of the participants had background information suggesting that a prime suspect had a motive, while the other half were told there might be someone else involved. They found that the students thought it was more likely to be the prime suspect, but only when they had a motive. The investigators showed a similar effect and were less likely to consider problems with the evidence when a prime suspect was identified, rather than if there was someone else – but importantly only if they had a ‘need for cognitive closure’ (basically time pressure and emotional investment in the decision). This shows the imprecise nature of our decision making and how our emotions and initial thoughts can easily cloud our judgments.

In order to avoid confirmation bias, it is important to take into account any information which goes against what you originally thought. In science, people need to actively look for information to go against their theory, because when you’ve disproved alternatives you can be sure that your theory is correct. So it might be worth keeping this in mind..

confirmation bias

 

Being left handed

As a left handed person and psychology graduate, this is a post I’ve wanted to write for a while because there’s actually a lot I don’t know about how being left handed affects the brain. Me and my dad are both left handed, but at opposite ends of the spectrum – he writes with his left hand (but that’s about it) whereas for me, even picking up something with my right hand feels weird and requires conscious effort. So if being left handed is genetic, why this difference?

Another reason I wanted to find out more information is that I actually quite like being left handed, despite the obvious irritation of everything from scissors to tin openers to computer keyboards being biased to the right-hander (and don’t even get me started on trying to write in anything other than biro). And there might even be some benefits to being a leftie, with theories that it’s linked to creativity, sports, or being good at playing an instrument. Here’s what we know:

About 10% of the population are left handed, although as you can see from the comparison between me and my dad, the degree of left handedness can vary. Men are also more likely to be left handed than women (e.g. Papadatou-Pastou et al, 2008). Scientists still aren’t sure of the exact cause of being left handed, although they are sure there is some genetic component – studies have shown that you are more likely to be left handed if one of your parents is (e.g. McManus & Brydon, 1991b).

Handedness has also been thought to relate closely to language functions in the brain. As you may remember if you read this post, in most people, language functions are lateralised to the left hemisphere (see below). As each hemisphere controls the opposite side of the body, there is thought to be a relationship between hand dominance and language, with right- handers having right side preference due to language functions located in the dominant left hemisphere.

lateralization-langauge-areas

However, in left-handers this relationship is not so clean cut – only about 30% are thought to have their language dominance in their right hemisphere. I actually participated in an fMRI experiment at uni which tested my handedness and language location in the brain, which found that even though I’m left handed, my language functions are normally lateralised in the left hemisphere. So opposite language lateralisation in the brain can’t be the only reason people are left handed, the process is way more complex, and still not something science fully understands.

Several studies have identified a link between being left handed and creativity. For example, Newland (1981) asked almost 100 right handed, and 100 left handed people to complete a test on creative thinking. The results showed that left handed participants scored more highly on all 4 sub-tests, suggesting they have greater creativity. Another study by Coren (1995) found that left-handers have better divergent thinking skills than right-handers – in other words, they are better at exploratory thinking to find solutions and create ideas. Being better at divergent thinking could explain why left handed people are more creative, and thought to be better at logic.

There is a lot of anecdotal evidence which suggests left-handers are smarter, or better at politics e.g. Mensa reported that 20% of its members are left handed (which is double what you’d expect, at 10% of the population). However, unfortunately, I can’t seem to find any actual experiments comparing IQ that back this up! Studies have shown however that professional orchestras have a higher proportion of left-handers, and that during school, a high proportion of children who excel at maths are left-handed.

Annoyingly, there don’t seem to be answers to all my questions about left handedness, and there is still a way to go to establish the genetic basis and to understand how the brain is organised in left handed individuals. Regardless, I hope you found this post interesting and let me know in the comments if there’s anything else you’d like me to feature on this blog.

 

 

 

 

How to stick to your New Year’s Resolutions

Hi everyone, I’m back after a bit of a break for Christmas with a post that’s pretty relevant to this time of year.. how to stick to your New Year’s resolutions. If you want to exercise more, or stop smoking, then look no further -this is the post for you.

When we write down our resolutions, we tend to picture ourselves in a few months time, and how happy/healthier we will feel. But year after year, we fail to accomplish these goals – stats have shown that as many as 80% of New Year’s resolutions remain incomplete. If you seem to fall into this category, then I’ve linked an excellent article above from the UK Mental Health Foundation about how to make goals that will work for you.

So once you’ve decided on your realistic goal, for example getting more exercise, how can you use psychology to predict your success? One well known model is social psychology is the Theory of Planned Behaviour, developed by Icek Azjen (1991). This theory aimed to improve the predictive abilities of previous theories by adding the influence of our behavioural intentions. The process of changing behaviours according to this model is shown in the flow chart below:

Theory-of-Planned-Behavior-Chart

As you can see from this diagram, this theory distinguishes between 3 different types of beliefs: behavioural, normative, and control. So therefore, our intentions to change behaviour are influenced by:

  1. Our attitudes towards that behaviour e.g. ‘I believe that exercising more will benefit me.. exercising is a positive behaviour’
  2. Other people’s attitudes towards this behaviour (subjective norm) e.g. ‘My family think I should exercise more.. most people view exercise as a positive behaviour’
  3. Our perceived control beliefs about the behaviour e.g. ‘I know I will be able to make time for exercise if I try’.

These beliefs then impact our intention to change our behaviours – for example if we believe that exercising more will benefit us, something which others agree with, and we believe we will be able to carry out the behaviour successfully, then our intention to change will be stronger. Therefore, we will be more likely to change our behaviour and achieve our goal. Studies have shown that it is our perceived behavioural control which mainly improves the prediction of actually carrying out behaviours from the intention to change, and is mainly applied to health behaviours such as stopping smoking or drinking too much.

I hope you found this post useful and that it will help you achieve your resolutions this year – let’s lower that 80%!

How to make the perfect gin and tonic

As it’s the holiday season and a lot of you may be thinking about throwing Christmas parties, I thought I’d do a relevant post this week – about how psychology can be used to enhance our perceptions of food and drink.

There’s actually been a lot of a research on this topic, which is then used by restaurants to make us enjoy our dining experience more, and ultimately spend more money!

Much of this research has been carried out by a psychologist called Charles Spence, who found that the way we perceive our food and drink affects its taste. He was part of a research team which found that the weight of a glass affects our perception of the drink inside, with lightness associated with cheapness – therefore, if you put your gin and tonic in a heavier glass, people will assume the quality of the alcohol is better, and so will prefer its taste. People also prefer wine if it came from a heavier bottle, and beer if it is drank from a bottle rather than a can.

gin-lemon

The feel of the quality of the cup or glass also has an effect on people’s perception of its contents. For example, Krishna and Morrin (2008) found that when people were served water in a flimsy plastic cup, but either drank it with a straw (without touching the cup) or picked the cup up, the participants who did not touch the cup rated the water as being of a better quality.

This effect of the weight and quality of the container  on perception has also been found to occur with food. In one study (Piqueras-Fiszman et al 2011), participants tasted yoghurt which was put in 3 bowls, which were identical apart from the fact they were different weights. They had to hold the bowl as they ate, and had to rate each yoghurt on which one they preferred (the yoghurts were of course, exactly the same). Results showed that the yoghurt from the heaviest bowl was liked 13% more by the participants than yoghurt from the lightest bowl.

So why does this effect occur? It is thought to be in part due to sensation transference, with perceptions of the glass or bowl being high quality and expensive being transferred to the food or drink they are containing. As well as this, the drinker needs to be aware of the shape or size of the glass, in order to make a judgement about its quality. Again, higher quality of material = higher quality judgement on the contents.

So what is the secret to making the perfect gin and tonic? Put it in a heavier glass and enjoy!

 

Nostalgia

Following on from the post about my dissertation.. now on to the next thing that’s been taking up quite a lot of my time this year – my research project. For this part of my degree, I had to carry out my own experiment on something which had not been shown before, and analyse the results.

I chose to look into nostalgic memories, and in particular, do we feel nostalgic from reading someone else’s nostalgic memories? It seemed like there was a bit of a gap in the research that had been done so far: although we know the functions of nostalgia (e.g. self esteem) and features of nostalgic memories (e.g. loved ones), not much work had been done on ways of making people feel nostalgic.

To start, I should probably make clear what nostalgia is: it is defined as a
“sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past”

The problem I identified with existing research was that most experiments manipulated nostalgia by asking participants to write down a nostalgic or ordinary memory, reading words that describe nostalgia and writing a memory based on them, or by listening to a nostalgic or ordinary song. These methods are fine if you then want to find out about effects of nostalgia, but are they equally effective in inducing nostalgia?
Nostalgia is also a very social emotion, and a study has shown that thinking of a nostalgic memory involving an out-group member leads to fewer feelings of prejudice towards that person (Turner et al, 2012). If nostalgia is a social emotion, then I hypothesised that reading someone else’s nostalgic memories could cause you to feel nostalgic. There had only been one study which found that nostalgia could be induced by reading someone else’s old love letters, or looking at their old photos. I decided to present participants with an actual nostalgic (or ordinary) memory narrative from someone else, and told participants the memory was from someone similar or dissimilar to them in age (to see whether similarity affected results). I compared how effective this method was with a previous method of making people feel nostalgic – giving participants a list of words that described nostalgia, or were more general, and asked them to write a memory based on these features.

My hypotheses:
1. That reading the nostalgic memory would make people feel nostalgic (compared to reading an ordinary memory).
2. That participants who were told the nostalgic memory was from someone similar to them would feel more nostalgic than those who were told it was from someone different.
3. That this method would be effective, but more nostalgia would be induced from writing your own memory in the comparison condition.

Similarity:
The reason I thought that similarity would effect results was because of principles shown in social psychology – it has been found that when people are categorised into groups, they will automatically perceive themselves as being more similar to other in-group members, and therefore more dissimilar from out-group members (Tajfel & Turner, 1979). Therefore, the perceived similarity of the reader to the person who wrote the memory could increase the amount of nostalgia transferred to the reader of the narrative. I called this a similarity-based “transfer effect” of nostalgia.

Design of Experiment:
– 121 participants, all between the ages of 16 and 24 (so I could manipulate similarity by age)
– Participants split into 6 groups: nostalgia similar, nostalgia dissimilar, ordinary similar, ordinary dissimilar, central features (write memory) and peripheral features (write memory).
– At the top of the memory narratives, a sentence explained this was ‘an actual memory from someone aged 20 (similar condition) or 60 (dissimilar condition).
– After participants had either read the memory, or read the features and written their own memory, they then completed a questionnaire to assess how nostalgic they felt.

What I found:

Hypothesis 1: Reading someone else’s nostalgic memory did make people feel more nostalgic than those who read an ordinary memory.

Hypothesis 2: Similarity had an effect on the amount of nostalgia people felt: participants in the nostalgia similar condition felt more nostalgia than participants in the nostalgia dissimilar condition – EVEN THOUGH the memory was the same, the age of writer differed.This is shown by the graph below.

r2

Hypothesis 3: The participants who wrote their own memory based on central features of nostalgia felt more nostalgic than participants who had read a nostalgic memory. However, there was no difference between the central and peripheral conditions, which differed from the original study (Hepper et al, 2012), who found peripheral features did not induce nostalgia. The graph below shows the results for this, and hypothesis 1: more nostalgia felt by participants who read someone else’s nostalgic memory than someone’s ordinary memory.

r1

The results of my experiment are the first to show that people can be made to feel nostalgic by reading someone else’s nostalgic memory, and that the amount of nostalgia felt depends on how similar the writer of the memory is to the reader. Therefore, it sets the basis for more research to be done on different ways of manipulating similarity and other ways of inducing nostalgia.

Hope you found this interesting and let me know if you’ve got any questions – I know this is a really complicated experiment!

Stress

Stress is not an uncommon emotion. In fact at uni it’s rare if a day goes by without someone (or let’s be honest, myself) complaining how stressed they are about a deadline/job application/exams. But what is stress? Why does it affect some people more than others, and is there anything we can do about it?

Types of stress:

There is debate about this, but putting it simply there are two different types of stress: acute, and chronic.
Acute stress has a sudden onset, and triggers the ‘fight or flight’ response, in which the brain releases adrenaline. This causes heart rate and blood pressure to increase, while functions which are seen as non essential, such as digestion, are decreased. This response prepares the body for danger.
In contrast, chronic stress is more long-term, and therefore has different effects on the body. The hypothalamus releases the neurotransmitter ACTH which causes the adrenal cortex to release cortisol. This makes sure the body has a source of energy, but weakens the immune system.

Both of these stress responses are illustrated in the diagram below:

 

Acute and Chronic Stress Responses

 

Effects of stress:

As implied by the fact that chronic stress weakens the immune system, stress makes you more likely to become ill, and slows healing. For example, Marucha et al (1998) found that students showed slower wound healing during the exam period than at other times of the year. Glaser et al (1989) found that students also reported more illnesses during this time.

Reducing the impact of stress:

Luckily, there are factors which can reduce the effects of stress. One of these is mood: Stone et al (1987) found that being in a positive mood is associated with more secretion of immunoglobin – a type of antibody which fights infection.

Other cognitive coping strategies include:
1. Problem-focused strategy: attempting to change the external situation, often through some planned action.
2. Emotion-focused strategy: attempting the change our own emotional reaction to the situation.
3. Avoidance.

Strategy number 2 is thought to be the most effective.

Why does stress not affect some people as severely?:

One theory was developed by Kobasa (1979) – the personality trait of ‘hardiness’. People high in this trait have a relative resistance to stress as they:
– believe in personal control over events
– have a commitment to full involvement in life
– enjoy challenges and opportunities.

One study found that executives who scored highly in these factors were less likely to become ill than others when exposed to the same amount of stress.

Another theory is that people who are less affected by stress have an ‘internal locus of control’, which means they believe they have personal control over events, rather than believing in external factors, such as luck (Hurrell & Murphy, 1991).

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