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There’s No Such Thing As Addictive Personality (Psychology)

Whether it’s your fourth cookie, shoe purchase, or cigarette, it’s common to pass off a moment of weak willpower as being caused by an addictive personality. But according to research, there’s no such thing.

Sure, there are personality traits that are associated with addictive behavior: neuroticism, for example, or impulsiveness. But those are just traits. Just because scientific evidence shows that most people with addictions are neurotic doesn’t mean that neuroticism makes you prone to addiction—there are plenty of neurotic people who aren’t addicted to anything.

Likewise, research shows that having one addiction makes you more likely to have another, but plenty of addicts stick to a single vice. Different vices also fulfill different personal needs for different people: we’ve all heard of the depressed alcoholic who drinks to numb the pain and the party-animal alcoholic who drinks to make life more exciting. Same drug, two different personalities.

If you put aside the fact that personality types are highly controversial, you can consider what it would mean for an addictive personality to exist. For there to be such a thing as an addictive personality, there would need to be one personality trait that predicted whether you’ll become an addict. And according to psychological research, there just isn’t.

According to Dr. Alan R. Lang, who authored a study on the psychological factors of addiction in the 1980s: “…there is no single, unique personality entity that is a necessary and sufficient condition for substance use.” This might sound contrarian, but it’s good news for those who thought their impulsive need to drink coffee or hit the slots was just an immutable part of their personality.


References: (1) https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2010-17510-004 (2) https://theconversation.com/theres-no-such-thing-as-an-addictive-personality-heres-why-55275 (3) http://www.nytimes.com/1983/01/18/science/the-addictive-personality-common-traits-are-found.html?pagewanted=all

ICEstruments Are Musical Instruments Made Of Ice And Played In An Igloo (Amazing Places)

Ice sculptures can get pretty ornate, but when you compare them to musical instruments—where any change in design can completely change the sound—there’s no contest. That is, until ice sculptor Tim Linhart took a crack at carving instruments from ice, and the orchestra he created must be heard to be believed.

IMG credit: Karin Aberg

Linhart created his first ice instrument two decades ago in a village in Sweden, he recalls in a video for Ice Music, the name for his frozen orchestra. He carved the body of a contrabass out of ice, and added real strings, tuning pegs, and the other components it needed, then played its first note. “I was so excited by what I heard that I put on my skis, I skied all the way down to the village, and I told them what happened to me and how excited I was,” he says. “They pretty much thought I was a kook.”

He continued, however, and created all sorts of instruments. Today, Ice Music is made up of violins, cellos, guitars, a marimba, and a wide variety of percussion. Since the instruments would melt in a normal concert hall, the musicians play in a special concert igloo in Luleå, Swedish Lapland, which is designed to vent the audience’s warmth while keeping the instruments frozen. During concerts, colored lights glow from within the instruments, lending the performances an otherworldly feel.

Img credit: Graeme Richardson

As you might expect, there’s a lot of upkeep required to keep the instruments playing in tune. As they melt, string instruments go down in pitch—the instrument itself gets shorter, so the strings lose tension.

But percussion instruments have the opposite problem. Just think about the difference in pitch when you strike a thick water glass versus a thin wine glass: the wine glass has a higher pitch because its thinner sides vibrate more quickly. An orchestra that goes out of tune in two different directions sounds like a nightmare—literally and figuratively—which is why Linhart and his team do their best to maintain the instruments despite the heat of the musicians and their audience.

IMG credit: Karin Aberg

Ice Music in Luleå Swedish Lapland 2014


References: (1) http://www.icemusic.se/about-ice-music/ (2) https://slate.com/human-interest/2016/04/an-orchestra-of-ice-instruments-plays-beautiful-music-in-an-igloo-in-sweden-video.html

Gardens By The Bay Singapore’s Sustainable ‘Superpark’ (Amazing places / Travel)

Singapore’s government is on a mission to transform their island nation into a “city in a garden.” Sounds pretty dreamy, right? Their National Parks Board moved this vision right along by creating a man-made mechanical forest inside their 250-acre landscaping project, Gardens by the Bay. It’s a breathtaking, solar-powered urban oasis.

Gardens by the Bay opened in 2012 in the Marina Bay area of Singapore’s south side. The national garden is comprised of three distinctive waterfront gardens: Bay South, Bay East, and Bay Central, which are maintained by an in-house team of landscape designers, horticulturists, arborists, engineers, and other plant specialists. Their team aims to both entertain visitors and educate them about sustainable development and conservation. Also, to wow everyone with their badass supertrees (we presume).

So, what’s so special about these supertrees? We’re glad you asked. These manmade structures tower at over 164 feet (50 meters), and, according to CNN, they “act as vertical gardens, generating solar power, acting as air venting ducts for nearby conservatories, and collecting rainwater.” They also absorb and disperse heat, provide shelter, and eleven of the supertrees are fitted with solar photovoltaic systems that convert sunlight into energy. Did we mention that they’re pretty? The artificial trees are covered with tropical flowers and climbing ferns. To see them up close, you can take a stroll across their connecting bridges, called “skywalks.”

Your trip to the Gardens won’t be complete without visiting their two green conservatories, the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome. These climate-controlled biomes were inspired by the shape of an orchid flower, and they’re the size of four football fields (housing 220,000 plants). Don’t forget to bring your camera.


References: (1) https://edition.cnn.com/2012/06/08/world/asia/singapore-supertrees-gardens-bay/ (2) https://m.gardensbythebay.com.sg/en.html

The Nazca Lines Are Ancient Desert Designs You Can Only See From Sky (Adventure / Amazing Places)

If you were to tromp across the Nasca Desert of southern Peru, you’d likely walk across enormous designs in the ground — we’re talking as long as the Empire State Building is tall, minus the spire. You probably wouldn’t know it from where you were standing, but during daytime, the designs become abundantly vivid from the perspective of a plane or a helicopter. These are known as the Nasca Lines: designs depicting monkeys, flowers, and other flora and fauna that were made by man nearly 2,000 years ago. How and why did people centuries ago create designs that can only be viewed by modern aircraft? Let us explain.

According to National Geographic, “In total, there are over 800 straight lines, 300 geometric figures and 70 animal and plant designs, also called biomorphs. Some of the straight lines run up to 30 miles, while the biomorphs range from 50 to 1,200 feet in length.” It’s hard to say which is more impressive: the symbol of a jaguar god hundreds of feet long, or a single line that’s 30 miles long. However, they were all created in the same impressive way.

Drawings in the ground like these are known as geoglyphs, and they come in “positive” and “negative” versions. A positive geoglyph is formed with material that sits on top of the ground, as with the Effigy Mounds National Monument. Negative geoglyphs are created via digging into the ground, as is the case with the Nasca Lines. To create the lines, the Nasca people would dig out the first foot or so of rust-colored rock and dirt. The earth underneath was a lighter shade, making the lines distinctly visible from the air and appear as long, mysterious trenches from the ground. Given the fact that the Nasca Desert is one of the driest places on Earth — it gets about 4mm of rain a year on average — the lines have stayed pretty much the same since they were first created.

Theories as to why the lines exist abound. Early guesses were that they corresponded with the stars, others suspect ancient hot-air balloons were at play, and of course, no massive and ancient formation would be complete without a theory from the History show Ancient Aliens. But as research has progressed, all signs point to water.

Some researchers think the lines most likely led to areas of ritual where the Nasca people prayed for rain. The animal symbols are an important clue. “Animal symbolism is common throughout the Andes and are found in the biomorphs drawn upon the Nasca plain: spiders are believed to be a sign of rain, hummingbirds are associated with fertility, and monkeys are found in the Amazon — an area with an abundance of water,” according to National Geographic. Indeed, a 2016 satellite study suggested that the spiral holes known as puquios that the lines led to were actually used to bring water up from underground. Perhaps they didn’t lead to places to pray for water but instead places to actually retrieve it.


References: (1) https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/archaeology/nasca-lines/ (2) https://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/nazca/esp_lineas_nazca_16.htm (3) https://www.nps.gov/efmo/learn/historyculture/effigy-moundbuilders.htm (4) https://en.climate-data.org/south-america/peru/ica/nazca-764107/ (5) https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/nazca-lines-peru (6) https://www.history.com/shows/ancient-aliens/season-5/episode-8 (7) https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20160408-the-ancient-peruvian-mystery-solved-from-space

Mirror Neurons Activate With Your Actions And The Actions Of Others (Psychology)

In the 1990s, Italian neuroscientists discovered something amazing in the brains of macaque monkeys: there were motor (movement) cells that activated the same way when the monkeys did something as they did when the monkeys watched others do the same thing. They called these “mirror neurons.” The idea is that when you watch someone else pick up a glass, kiss a loved one, or perform any other action, mirror neurons are making your brain simulate that activity; acting as if you were doing it yourself even when you’re standing still. Other scientists quickly began studying their role in all sorts of areas, from empathy to autism.

Many scientists think that these neurons could be the reason we can understand why people do things, and therefore how we can feel empathy for them and predict their future actions. Some research has suggested that they’re behind difficulties with empathy in autistic people, and also play a role in problems with speech. In recent years, however, the tide has turned, with other scientists arguing that there’s insufficient evidence for many of these claims—a controversy covered in depth by Scientific American. The jury is still out on what mirror neurons really do, but one thing is certain: the brain remains a complex, mysterious thing. Learn more about mirror neurons and empathy in the video given below:

Neurologist V.S. Ramachandran On The Mirror Neuron Effect


References: (1) https://www.apa.org/monitor/oct05/mirror (2) https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/do_mirror_neurons_give_empathy (3) https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-mirror-neuron-revolut/ (4) https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/whats-so-special-about-mirror-neurons/

This Effect Makes You Less Likely To Act When Others Are There (Psychology)

You’ve probably heard of the bystander effect, the idea that when a lot of people witness something, they don’t act because they assume others will. But is it really true?

THE KITTY GENOVESE STORY

Many people know the story of Kitty Genovese: in 1964, she was stabbed to death outside of her apartment while 38 tenants of the building watched from their windows. None did anything to intervene because they assumed other people would. In fact, the important details of this story are more fiction than fact — two people called the police, and one man yelled at the killer to leave Genovese alone — but even still, the “bystander effect” this story usually illustrates has been shown to be a real phenomenon.

WHEN ELSE DOES IT HAPPEN?

Social psychologists Bibb Latané and John Darley popularized the concept of the bystander effect following this infamous murder. They examined the effect in a number of studies. In one, students sat in a booth alone with a mic and headphones and were asked to discuss a particular topic with either one or four people in other booths. At one point, one of the participants had a (staged) seizure. A full 85% of students left the booth to report the seizure when they believed it was a one-on-one conversation, and only 31% reported it when they thought there were other people there. Another study showed that people will stay in a room filling with smoke if they’re with others who don’t react.

In their study, they attributed the bystander effect to two factors: diffusion of responsibility and social influence. The perceived diffusion of responsibility means that the more onlookers there are, the less personal responsibility individuals will feel to take action. Social influence means that individuals monitor the behavior of those around them to determine how to act.

So how do you avoid this tendency? If you see an emergency, make it your responsibility to either intervene or report it. This extends to non-emergency situations, as well: if you need a task completed at work, for example, ask one person directly instead of asking a group.

To learn more watch the video given below:

Bystander Revolution: Dr. Philip Zimbardo | The Bystander Effect


References: (1) https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/basics/bystander-effect (2) https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/03/10/a-call-for-help (3) http://changingminds.org/explanations/theories/bystander_effect.htm

Are People Really Left-Brained Or Right-Brained? (Neuroscience / Psychology)

Despite the proliferation of quizzes that claim to tell you if you’re right- or left-brained, the hemispheres don’t work like that.

On the contrary, it seems that they need to work together to optimally perform many tasks, from speaking to completing math problems. One study of more than 1,000 participants determined that both sides of the brain had roughly equal amounts of activity during different tests, and that no one was strongly right- or left-brained. So, the next time someone tells you that they’re hyper-logical and left-brained, feel free to shut them down with some real reasoning that uses both sides. Explore this and other fascinating brain truths with the video given below:

Are People Really Left-Brained or Right-Brained?

To Keep Emotions In Check Talk To Yourself In Third Person (Psychology)

Talking to yourself, especially in the third person, can be a little embarrassing. It’s no wonder when you think about the fictional characters who do it: villains like Smeagol from “Lord of the Rings,” simpletons like The Incredible Hulk, egomaniacs like “The Simpsons'” Duff Man, and childish figures like “Sesame Street’s” Elmo. But it’s time to shake off those old stereotypes. According to research, talking to yourself in the third person is great for your mental health.

For a 2017 study published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports, researchers from Michigan State University and the University of Michigan set out to determine how volunteers’ emotions were affected by the way they talked to themselves during negative experiences. In the first experiment, the volunteers looked at a series of negative and neutral images while researchers recorded their brain activity on an electroencephalograph (EEG).

While they looked, half of the volunteers asked themselves, “What am I feeling right now?” The other half asked the same question, but used their own names in the third person — for instance, if The Incredible Hulk was a study participant, he’d say, “What is Hulk feeling right now?” In the second experiment, participants recalled negative past experiences and asked themselves the same questions while researchers watched which areas of their brains were active via an fMRI brain scan.

They found that when people spoke to themselves in the third person, the emotional activity in their brains dropped off much more quickly than the people who analyzed their feelings in the first person. The third-person participants also showed less activity in the area of the brain that’s usually on high alert while reflecting on painful memories and used less brainpower overall than the first-person participants. This all adds up to suggest that analyzing your feelings in the third person gives you a better handle on them and keeps them from going to extremes.

Fig: A first-of-its-kind study led by researchers at Michigan state university and university of Michigan indicates that talking to yourself in third person may constitute relatively effortless form of self control

Feeling better isn’t the only benefit to talking to yourself with your own name. Ethan Kross, a co-author on the 2017 study, has also studied what self-talk can do for confidence. In an article for the Harvard Business Review, he described how participants of one study who referred to themselves in the third (or second!) person when preparing for a speech felt calmer and more confident and performed better than those who used the first person. They also felt better about the speech when it was over.

But why? Co-author Jason Moser explains in a press release, “Essentially, we think referring to yourself in the third person leads people to think about themselves more similar to how they think about others, and you can see evidence for this in the brain. That helps people gain a tiny bit of psychological distance from their experiences, which can often be useful for regulating emotions.” When you need a pep talk, who knows you better than yourself?


References: (1) https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-04047-3 (2) https://hbr.org/2015/02/pronouns-matter-when-psyching-yourself-up (3) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170726102906.htm

Science Says You’re Totally Different Person At 14 And 77 (Psychology)

Most of us would like to forget decisions we made during our early teenage years — outfit choices, music taste, significant others, you name it. What were we thinking? (Side note: will butterfly clips make a comeback?) In the longest-running personality study ever, published in Psychology and Aging, research suggests that, much like your physical appearance, your personality completely transforms over time.

Even if you were an introverted teenager, there’s still a chance you’ll be a social butterfly in your older age. In a study spanning 63 years, Matthew Harris and his colleagues at the University of Edinburgh found that people have very different personalities in late adolescence than they do in old age. Their study began in 1950 with a group of 1,209 Scottish 14-year-olds, and ended in 2012 when the participants were 77 years old. What happened during those years? A lot of changes.

In 1950, the teenage study participants had teachers rate these personality traits: self-confidence, perseverance, stability of moods, conscientiousness, originality, and desire to learn. In 2012, 174 of these teenagers agreed to be re-examined after 63 years had passed. The subjects rated themselves on the original six criteria and they had a close friend or relative rate them. As it turns out, the subjects had developed more than just wrinkles — they’d also formed brand new personalities. The researchers found no significant correlation between their ratings at age 14 and age 77.

The study notes that the longer the time interval, “the weaker the relationship between the two [selves] tends to be.” If you compare a 12-year-old and a 42-year-old, the relationship between personality traits will certainly be stronger than when you compare the teenager to their 77-year-old selves. At an interval of 63 years, “there is hardly any relationship at all.”

As BPS Research Digest notes, we experience a lot of changes during our adolescence and early childhood, as well as in our older age. While it might be strange to think of yourself as an entirely new human at 77, at least you’ll have completely grown out of your teenage angst (or, so we hope).


References: (1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5144810/ (2) https://digest.bps.org.uk/2017/02/07/longest-ever-personality-study-finds-no-correlation-between-measures-taken-at-age-14-and-age-77/