Tag Archives: #traits

The Evolution of Honesty (Psychology)

New research explains why we tend to tell the truth instead of lie.

As one who studies deception for a living, I am often asked why some people seem to lie a lot. That question always seemed like a fair one to me. We can all immediately recall examples of lying politicians, corrupt businessmen, conniving lovers, and duplicitous coworkers. These deceivers grab our attention because their dishonesty is so far outside the norms of society. We feel fortunate that these big liars are rare, with most people in our communities acting just like us—honest. But not long ago, another question crossed my mind: Why are most people so honest? Sure, there are some big liars out there, but most people are honest most of the time, even when being dishonest might help them get ahead. Why, when lying and deception often would allow one to gain an advantage, would honesty be such a central feature of human nature? The tendency to be honest with those around us seems so pervasive that it is almost as if the tendency is baked into human psychology along with sociality, curiosity, language, and other nearly universal traits. Researchers have recently begun to explore this question from an evolutionary perspective.

Competing Goals

When two individuals interact, they often have divergent goals. When buying a car, the salesperson and the customer have a shared goal of facilitating the transaction, but they also have subordinate goals that are diametrically opposed. The salesperson wants to sell the car for a high price, and the customer wants to purchase the car for a low price. Similarly, we can see these opposing goals in romantic relationships with each partner prioritizing some goals such as marriage, having kids, buying a new car, etc., that may come into conflict with the goals of the other partner. Once a conflict of interests emerges, each person may use a combination of strategies to protect their interests. They negotiate, argue, beg, make tradeoffs, share, fight, leave, compromise, etc. One such strategy is to deceive. If Sylvia wants to have an affair, but her spouse insists on monogamy, Sylvia can lie and say that she is spending the evening with friends. Likewise, if John wants the day off from work, and his boss wants him to work, John can simply lie and say that he is sick. People can use deception to gain the upper hand in a struggle for their own interests when those interests come into conflict with another’s.

Natural Honesty

But it turns out that most people are honest. In some of my own studies, I have found that most people report lying very rarely, even when there is no serious prospect of being caught if they lied. In laboratory studies on deception, people tend to honestly report their performance on a dice-rolling task, when lying would profit them financially. Even those people who do lie tend to do so in ways that fail to maximize their financial advantage. Even more perplexing, people who actually do come out ahead in such games sometimes lie in order to appear less successful than they actually were. So why do people behave so prosocially when there are clear financial incentives to lie? Some researchers have argued that we humans have evolved prosocial preferences, both for others and for ourselves. We have evolved to cooperate. Why would we evolve prosocial tendencies when Machiavellian tendencies (the tendency to exploit, manipulate, and deceive, others in order to achieve our own goals) would seem to obviously benefit one’s selfish interests? Evolutionary theory would argue that the honest approach must yield some adaptive advantage. That is, being prosocially honest must, in the end, produce more benefits to the individual than the Machiavellian approach.

Cooperation and Survival

The key to understanding this puzzle seems to be in the power of cooperation. Humans are a social species. There is pretty compelling evidence that without cooperation, people are much less likely to survive and thrive. By studying hunter-gatherers, anthropologists and evolutionary psychologists have discovered that our Paleolithic ancestors would be very unlikely to live long if they attempted to go it alone. In hunter-gatherer tribes, individuals are often left helpless by injuries and illness. Without cooperative help from others, these sick and hurt people would die of starvation. Likewise, without communal food gathering and sharing, each individual would not survive the feast and famine cycle of unpredictable hunting and gathering. Together, though, they share their bounty so that when each one inevitably has a bad day, the other members of the group will help them survive.

Evolution of Honesty

But before people will want to cooperate with you, they will need to know that you will reciprocate. People are vigilant observers of others’ behaviors. We note when someone is a cheat, when they are dishonest, or when they are cheap. We also notice when they share, when they pull their weight, and when they are genuine. We selectively cooperate with those who are themselves good cooperators. So, in order to be in productive cooperative relationships with others, we must demonstrate that we are good teammates. We do this by managing our reputations. We go out of our way to show people that we carry the credentials of a good cooperator. We showcase our warmth, our loyalty, and our honesty. The survival requisite of group living has driven people to place a premium on marketing themselves as reliable cooperators. But we need not even be consciously aware of this strategic cooperative machinery driving our behavior. Instead, we usually only notice the proximate gears that drive our behavior. We notice the guilt and shame we feel when we betray someone. We feel queasy when we fail to act fairly. We feel a loss of self-esteem when we recognize that we have been lying. Whether these drivers of honesty are hardwired into our brains or whether they are products of cultural evolution is still a matter of debate, but there does seem to be a compelling case that we humans, at least the majority of us, have evolved a tendency toward honesty, not deception.

References: (1) Heintz, C., Karabegovic, M., &, Molnar, A. (2016). The co-evolution of honesty and strategic vigilance. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1503. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01503 (2) Henrich, J. (2018). Human cooperation: The hunter-gatherer puzzle. Current Biology, 28(19), 1143-1145. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2018.08.005. (3) Oesch, N. (2016). Deception as a derived function of language. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1485. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01485

This article is originally written by Christian L. Hart, who is a Professor of Psychology and Director of the Psychological Science program at Texas Woman’s University. This article is republished here from psychology today under common creative licenses

Brain Structure May Not Influence Personality After All (Neuroscience)

We know personality comes from the brain, but does that mean the shape and composition of the brain affects personality?

Previous studies have attempted to find links between brain structure and personality types, but new data indicates otherwise. A new study, the largest of its kind, suggests these links may not be so strong after all. In fact, they may not even exist.

New study casts doubt on links between personality and brain structure. Credit: MRI scan courtesy of Annchen Knodt, Duke University

Recently Duke researchers, led by Reut Avinun Ph.D., a postdoctoral associate at Professor Ahmad Hariri’s lab, analyzed the MRI scans of over a thousand people to determine potential links between personality and brain shape.

Although there are many personality neuroscience studies, consistent and reliable findings have not been established. While most previous studies used less than 300 individuals, this study has a large sample of 1,107 individuals. Additionally, this research comprehensively measures personality with 240 items.

Avram Holmes, an sssociate professor of psychology at Yale who was not involved in the study, explains the true value of this sample size: “When I got into the field, people were collecting data sets with only 10 people and doing analysis with only 20 participants.”

Personality studies such as this use the “Big Five” personality traits: neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness-to-experience. High neuroticism and low conscientiousness have been associated with negative health behaviors such as smoking. They were even connected to negative life outcomes, such as depression, anxiety, and poor sleep. By understanding what underlies these behaviors, scientists may be able to better treat them.

For brain shape, Avinun and her colleagues examined brain morphometry, cortical thickness, cortical surface area, subcortical volume, and white matter microstructural integrity. She used a univariate approach, looking at the relationship between one phenotype and one behavior. Statistical analysis also accounted for the factors of race/ethnicity, sex, and age.

Last year, researchers published a paper finding 15 correlations between specific personality traits and neuroanatomical structures. However, Avinun’s new research found that none of these connections held true in the large Duke Neurogenetics Study sample.

When scientists analyze an MRI dataset, there is a lot of freedom in the phenotypes collected and the types of analyses. “With so many degrees of investigative freedom and the expectation that you should see something there, researchers may accidentally find false positives. It’s easy to fall into the trap of making a story about why the effect has this particular brain pattern and see an association that doesn’t exist,” Holmes explained.

Ultimately, Avinun found no links between the Big Five personality traits and multiple features of brain structure.

While this may seem anticlimactic, even null findings are incredibly useful and could lead to recommendations to future research in this area. By showing that links between brain morphometry and personality tend to be small, this research may push the field toward studies with larger samples and guidelines for higher replication rates.

“The brain is plastic and it is affected every day by our experiences, so expecting to find straightforward associations between brain morphometry and personality traits may be too naïve,” Avinun said. “We are beginning to realize that large samples and multivariate methods are needed in neuroscience. Trying to understand what makes us who we are is exciting. Research is really challenging as the field is constantly changing, but it is constantly improving as well.”

Reference: Reut Avinun et al. Little evidence for associations between the Big Five personality traits and variability in brain gray or white matter, NeuroImage (2020). DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.117092 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053811920305784?via%3Dihub

Provided by Duke Research Blog

Butterfly Color Diversity Due To Female Preferences (Biology)

Butterflies have long captured our attention due to their amazing color diversity. But why are they so colorful? A new publication led by researchers from Sweden and Germany suggests that female influence butterfly color diversity by mating with colorful males.

Dorsal wing color by sex of European butterflies. © Kalle Tunström.

In many species, especially birds and butterflies, males are typically more colorful than females, a phenomenon known as dichromatism. In many dichromatic species, the more conspicuous sex is more vulnerable to predation. Certainly, the male peacock is a much easier target than the more camouflaged hen. Explaining why one member of a species would place itself in more danger was a challenge to Charles Darwin’s early views on evolution by natural selection, as Darwin envisioned natural selection acting to reduce such risks.

Examples of dichromatism in fact were one of the issues that lead him to develop his theory of sexual selection, where elaborate male traits could evolve through female preference for conspicuous males, even in the face of the increased dangers such males would encounter.

Today, many naturalists and biologists alike generally ascribe the exaggerated coloration of males as being due to sexual selection. However, when we see a species in which males are more colorful than females, sexual selection is not necessarily the only answer. An alternative route to dichromatism might begin with males and females both being very colorful, followed by natural selection acting upon females to make them less conspicuous, perhaps due to the cost of being easier prey. Stated another way, perhaps females become less colorful so they are better camouflaged and therefore preyed upon less. The argument that natural selection could give rise to dichromatism was posited by Darwin’s contemporary, Alfred Russel Wallace. Darwin and Wallace in fact argued for decades about the origins of dichromatism in birds and butterflies.

The reason for this long debate between Darwin and Wallace arises because, without knowing how males and females looked in evolutionary past, either sexual selection or natural selection could give rise to dichromatism. Since they had no way of formally assessing what species used to look like, their argument had few routes for resolution.

This is where researchers from Sweden (Stockholm University and Lund University) and Germany (University of Marburg) have recently made progress, by developing statistical means for inferring the ancestral color states of males and females over evolutionary time.

To do this, they first reconstructed the evolutionary relationships among European butterflies and put this into a time calibrated framework. Then they scanned scientific drawings of all these male and female butterfly species, and used that color information in its evolutionary context to estimate the direction of butterfly color evolution for each sex, and in relation to the amounts of dichromatism per species. “Tracking evolutionary colour vectors through time made it possible to quantify both the male and female contribution to dichromatism”, says Dr. Dirk Zeuss from the University of Marburg, who is coauthor of the new study.

“We find that the rates of color evolution in males are faster than in females”, says Dr. Wouter van der Bijl, the lead author of the study. While this finding itself suggested that males might be the target of sexual selection, further analysis was needed to rule out alternative explanations. For example, male color could be evolving rapidly when species are already dichromatic, but not when males and females start to first diverge from each other in color. By modelling both the changes in dichromatism and the changes in male and female color over evolutionary time, the researchers could calculate that changes in male color are twice as important to the evolution of dichromatism than changes in female color.

This finding suggests that Darwin was right, as it is consistent with female preference and thus sexual selection for colorful males being the driving force in color evolution. Thus, the researchers provided some resolution to the 150-year-old argument between Darwin and Wallace about the origins of dichromatism in butterflies, finding that Darwin’s, but not Wallace’s, model of dichromatism evolution explains the patterns better.

References: van der Bijl, W., Zeuss, D., Chazot, N., Tunström, K., Wahlberg, N., Wiklund, C., Fitzpatrick, J.L. and Wheat, C.W. (2020), Butterfly dichromatism primarily evolved via Darwin’s, not Wallace’s, model. Evolution Letters. doi:10.1002/evl3.199 link: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/evl3.199

Provided by Stockholm University

It’s All Connected: Your Genes, Your Environment, And Your Health (Biology / Genetics)

Human health is highly dependent on genetics, yet it is also known to be affected by factors in an individual’s environment—and these days that environment is quite stressful. As we shelter in place amid the coronavirus pandemic, anxiety combined with changes in our routines is driving a significant increase in alcohol consumption, and some are experiencing weight gain. On top of all this, due to recent wildfires, the air in many areas is filled with smoke and hazardous particulate matter.

Credit: sunka_art/Shutterstock

Long before the events of 2020, scientists were trying to unravel the details of how the separate influences of inheritance and surroundings push and pull against one another to govern traits—such as height, athletic ability, and addictive behavior—and disease risk. Paul Williams, a statistician at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), specializes in investigating the instances where genetics and environment are most closely intertwined. His work focuses on a phenomenon called “quantile-dependent expressivity,” wherein the genes that predispose people to certain traits are amplified by environmental factors.

Now he has published three new studies on alcohol consumption, weight gain, and lung health. Each are published in separate journals, but together they suggest that these facets of health are indeed affected by quantile-dependent expressivity, and indicate that people genetically predisposed to greater drinking, weight gain, and difficulty breathing are particularly at risk in the current environment.

The findings were generated by analyzing datasets from the Framingham Study—a famous, ongoing health and lifestyle study that collects detailed records of diet, exercise, medication use, and medical history from thousands of families. The study was first launched in 1948 by the National Institutes of Health to investigate how lifestyle and genetics affect rates of cardiovascular disease, but the collected data have since been used in thousands of other studies to examine numerous facets of human disease and wellbeing.

Weight gain

Heritability is a term used to define the estimated proportion of a phenotype—the observable characteristics of a trait—that can be explained by genes alone. Past research has shown that there is a large variation in the heritability of body weight: for some individuals, genes appear to account for about 25% of the predisposition to be overweight, while for others, the proportion can be as high as 80%. Many scientists believe that susceptibility genes make some people more prone to weight gain and that environmental factors—including those occurring in utero—trigger the expression of genes that cause weight gain.

After examining Framingham data—including measurements of visceral and subcutaneous fat using CT-scans, which is more precise than simple body mass index (BMI) numbers—Williams found that weight heritability was over three-times greater in offspring who were at the 90th percentile of the body weight distribution than those who were at the 10th percentile.

He said the results are consistent with previous research by others showing that obesity genes have a bigger effect in people in certain lifestyle categories: heavy consumers of fried food, sugar-sweetened beverages, and fatty foods; heavy television watchers; heavy eaters; meal skippers; those who are sedentary; and those who are stressed or depressed.

Williams hopes that this new analysis, recently published in the International Journal of Obesity, will encourage scientists to move toward a new paradigm in studying and treating obesity.

“Different genes and different environmental effects are sometimes interpreted as separate, one-off phenomena, but I think these results suggests that everything is much more interconnected—namely, that seemingly separate factors can all act to increase body weight, and as body weight increases so do the effects of any obesity genes that a person carries,” he said.

Alcohol consumption

Using a statistical approach called simultaneous quantile regression, Williams examined the influence that genes have on alcohol consumption in Framingham participants. His results showed there is indeed an increase in the strength of genetic influence as participants’ consumption levels went up.

According to Williams, scientists have previously found strong links between alcohol consumption and environment, with evidence showing that rural dwellers, those with low socioeconomic status, and adolescents whose peers drink alcohol are more likely to have higher intakes, among other population groups.

The traditional interpretation of gene-environment interaction is that the environment influences gene expression, which in turn produces the phenotype. However, Williams’ work suggests a more complex interaction. “I hypothesize that it is higher alcohol consumption itself, rather than the behavioral and environmental conditions that lead to higher consumption, that accentuates the genetic effects.”

His analysis, “Quantile-Specific Heritability of Intakes of Alcohol but not Other Macronutrients,” was published in the journal Behavior Genetics.

Lung Health

Only a small handful of genes regulating lung health have thus far been identified, making it difficult to provide preventative care for people at higher risk of developing lung (pulmonary) diseases, other than the standard advice of exercise and avoiding tobacco. One benefit of Williams’ statistical approach is that the exact genetic mechanisms do not need to be known in order to calculate the heritability of a trait or traits.

His findings from the Framingham data, published earlier this year in the journal PeerJ—Life & Environment, demonstrated that inherited pulmonary defects had about 50% more of an effect on offspring in the lowest percentile of lung function than those in the highest percentile.

Though the take-home message of not smoking and avoiding airborne pollution as much as possible remains the same, Williams said that the evidence of quantile-dependent expressivity in pulmonary genes stresses the importance of these precautions for anyone who has a family history of pulmonary disease.

References: (1) Paul T. Williams. Spirometric traits show quantile-dependent heritability, which may contribute to their gene-environment interactions with smoking and pollution, PeerJ (2020). DOI: 10.7717/peerj.9145 (2) Paul T. Williams. Quantile-dependent heritability of computed tomography, dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, anthropometric, and bioelectrical measures of adiposity, International Journal of Obesity (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41366-020-0636-1 (3) Paul T. Williams. Quantile-Specific Heritability of Intakes of Alcohol but not Other Macronutrients, Behavior Genetics (2020). DOI: 10.1007/s10519-020-10005-z

Provided by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

The 11 Factors Involved In Falling In Love, According To Psychologists (Psychology)

Love is like a box of chocolates; there are a LOT of ingredients. Surely we’re not blowing your minds when we tell you that more is at play in the game of love than just physical attraction or a shared passion for “Game of Thrones” and pizza rolls. According to one psychologist, there are 11 distinct factors that can leave you smitten. Despite what we said earlier, nothing about chocolate appears on the list.

Credit: Gettyimages

Ayala Malach Pines, a faculty member at the School of Management at Ben Gurion University in Israel, is a clinical psychologist who studies couples. Pines authored around 60 research papers in her career, and a handful of relationship books, one of which is “Falling in Love: Why We Choose the Lovers We Choose.” In this book, Pines breaks love down into 11 factors. So, why do we gravitate toward those certain charming weirdos we can’t help but love? Here’s what’ll do it, according to Pines:

1. Similarity in attitudes, background, personality traits. Whoever said opposites attract? (That would be Paula Abdul, but we digress.)
2. Geographic proximity. Ever heard the phrase “near and dear to my heart?” Special emphasis on the “near” part.
3. Desirable characteristics of personality and appearance. Tall, dark, and handsome. Oh, generous too.
4. Reciprocal affection. Does your crush like you back? Stalkers aren’t lovers, people.
5. Satisfying needs. Missing satisfaction? Mick Jagger can tell you about that one.
6. Physical and emotional arousal. These are the steamy waters beyond the Friend Zone.
7. Social influences, norms, and the approval of people in our circle. To quote the Spice Girls, “If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends.”
8. Specific cues in the beloved’s voice, eyes, posture, way of moving. Are you tickled by the weird way your boyfriend dances to Journey at karaoke? Oh yeah, you’ve been bitten by the lovebug.
9. Readiness for a romantic relationship. One-night stands need not apply.
10. Opportunities to be alone together. For obvious reasons.
11. Mystery, in the situation or the person. A little enigma only makes things more interesting.

Feeling single and salty? Don’t worry; we’re here for you. You can use the above points to track down a love interest, too. Because geographic proximity is a huge factor, for instance, hang out regularly in places where a potential date might also want to chill. And just keep going there. As psychologist Peter M. Vishton, Ph.D. explains in the video below, repeated exposure increases our liking for basically everything, whether that be music, exotic foods, or certain people. It’s a start.

If you’re not sure whether or not you can check off each item on that list, just hop in an MRI. Good ol’ science is here to save the day again. A 2015 study provided the “first empirical evidence of love-related alterations in brain functional architecture,” meaning you could actually tell if someone is in love based on what their brain scan looks like. Romantic, isn’t it?

Two Traits Determine How Likely You Are To Cheat On Your Partner (Psychology)

They say that nothing hurts like heartbreak does. Unfortunately, one of the risks of a romantic relationship is that your partner will betray your trust. If only there was some way to predict a person’s likelihood of cheating before you actually start dating. Well, the good news is that there is a way to make an informed guess. The bad news? We have no idea how you’re going to suggest it.

In a new study led by Dr. Jim McNulty and his team at Florida State University, researchers kept tabs on 233 couples for three and a half years, beginning when they were newlyweds. They homed in on two distinct traits that they thought might influence the likelihood of cheating and organized two different studies to measure each trait’s influence on unfaithful behavior. In order to do so, they gave both partners in each couple a behavioral test or two, then kept in correspondence with them for the remainder of the experiment. Occasionally, they asked participants to fill out a survey about any infidelity, how committed they felt to their partner, the happiness of their relationship, and whether or not they were still married.

The first behavioral trait the researchers looked at was something called “attentional disengagement.” This basically refers to the amount of time between when a person starts paying attention to something and when they stop, often a matter of milliseconds. The phenomenon has been used in lots of other psychological studies, like this one that showed how the subconscious ways we decide where to direct our attention shape our mood and outlook. But for the FSU study, the researchers wanted to see how quickly the participants tore their eyes from pictures of attractive people. The results? The faster people looked away from the faces of very attractive people, the less likely they were to cheat — even shaving a couple hundred milliseconds off their gaze was enough to reduce the chances of infidelity by half.

The other main factor on the researchers’ radar? What they call “devaluation of alternatives.” It’s also long been a staple of psychological studies into relationship dynamics. For the second group, the researchers didn’t just measure how quickly the participants shifted their eyes elsewhere. They also explicitly asked the recruits to evaluate the attractiveness of a set of portraits. The people who evaluated attractive portraits as less attractive were significantly more likely to stay faithful to their partners. Makes sense if you think about it, although the researchers point out that neither devaluation nor disengagement are conscious behaviors. In other words, you might not be aware that you’re doing either one — but knowing about how they work might give you a foundation to start cultivating more partner-friendly habits.

This 10-Min Personality Test Can Measure You On The 5 Main Personality Traits (Psychology)

We’ve told you about therapy before, but there’s something about the business of mental health that’s hard to quantify. A medical doctor can tell you if you’ve got a fever or if your arm is broken, but how can you measure exactly how neurotic you are? Easy: take this test.

Welcome to the OCEAN. That’s short for Openness to experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism, and it’s the five-point personality profile some professionals use to assess the psychological states of their patients.

The International Personality Item Pool can help you find out exactly where you place on the board. There are two versions. The 300-point test is perhaps more accurate, but psychology professor John Johnson (who put together this online resource) warns that it can take up to 40 minutes, and worse, the website tends to crash. So you may want to try the 120-point test instead since you’ll only lose 15 minutes tops if the internet eats your results.

Even 120 questions sounds like a lot, but they go by pretty quickly. The points are just short statements of things you might do, such as “keep your promises” and “go on binges,” and you answer on a scale from “very inaccurate” to “accurate” regarding how they apply to you. When you get your results back, you’ll be ranked on exactly how open to new experiences, conscientious, extroverted, agreeable, and neurotic you are. If you really want to know, that is.

The thing is, the test is grading you on more than just the Big Five. Each of those personality traits can be split into smaller pieces for greater precision. So under “Extraversion,” you’re actually being graded on things like “assertiveness,” “friendliness,” and “cheerfulness.” “Agreeableness” includes “trust,” “morality,” and “modesty.” And dark-horse personality trait “Neuroticism” includes such traits as “anxiety,” “anger,” “depression,” and “self-consciousness.”

Just remember that the test isn’t actually a judgment of your worth or quality as a person. Even if, for example, you get a low score on “morality,” that might just mean you are more guarded than others, or that you are less open with the truth than the average person. It’s probably a trait that should be examined, sure. Just don’t mistake it for saying you’re a bad person.

Psychotherapy Works, Even When You Feel Like It Doesn’t (Psychology)

Have you ever made an appointment with a psychotherapist? It’s a scary thing to do, and that first meeting is never easy. Even as time goes on, you might feel sometimes like you’re just spinning your wheels in every session, since the balm for your neuroses doesn’t really come all at once. But we have good news. A new meta-analysis published in the Psychological Bulletin suggests that therapy works — no matter what kind of therapy it is.

Personality isn’t entirely static, but it’s not the most pliable thing in the world either. If you’re very outgoing and adventurous in your 20s, you’ll probably be the same in your 30s and 40s. Age and life experiences will take their toll as well, and as you grow older it’s likely that you’ll grow more self-confident, more controlled, and more emotionally stable. That’s great news for everyone who’s moving forward in time. But this new meta-analysis suggests that if time isn’t changing you fast enough, a trip to the doctor might.

The researchers squared their focus on what’s known as the “Big Five” of personality traits: Openness to experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (collectively known as OCEAN). Therapy was particularly useful in altering neurotic tendencies. Neuroticism tends to decrease as you age from young adulthood into middle age, but just four weeks of therapy was enough to affect about half of the average lifetime shift towards a calmer mind. Therapy had a pretty significant effect on Extraversion as well, and a smaller effect on Conscientiousness and Agreeableness. Only changes to Openness to experiences were inconsistent across the 207 this meta-analysis amalgamated.

Most interestingly of all, the study spans multiple types of psychotherapy, so when it comes to choosing a doctor, you should find one who practices a style that makes you comfortable — when it comes to effectiveness, they’re all pretty similar.

The thing is, the actual style your psychotherapist practice isn’t often high on the list of qualities you look for — it’s certainly lower than if they’re on your insurance or not, and it all depends on if you even know the difference between them. So we thought we’d demystify the different varieties and ease the process along.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

The current reigning champ of psychotherapy, CBT focuses, as you might guess, on both thoughts and behaviors. This might take a couple of different forms. Your therapist could help you process difficult thoughts and emotions, and encourage more healthy ones instead with the goal of altering your behavior. But they might also encourage you to alter your behavior first, for example, suggesting that a person with social anxiety attend a crowded event with an eye towards changing the harmful thought processes. A lot of emphasis is placed on understanding your thought processes and either overcoming them or using them to your advantage. CBT is often recommended for anxiety disorders, depression, substance abuse, and eating disorders.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy has fallen a bit out of favor these days, but its roots go all the way back to Freud. In this sort of practice, the patient is encouraged to explore the relationship between their conscious and their unconscious mind, with many unconscious thoughts being linked to early childhood experiences. The therapist may also emphasize mental and behavioral patterns, and help the patient uncover the underlying reasons for repeating these patterns. The entire process is generally regarded as being slower than CBT, and thus it can be a bit harder to find an insurance company that covers it. It’s recommended for patients with generalized anxiety disorders and depression.

Person-Centered Therapy

Person-centered therapy sets itself apart from the other two varieties by having a lot less structure and putting a lot more emphasis on the relationship between the patient and the therapist. The patient is encouraged to work through their thoughts on their own time, with only a little guidance. One of the main advantages of this sort of work is that it de-emphasizes the “authority” aspect of the therapist in favor of reminding the patient that we’re all human beings with our own ways of processing. It’s often recommended for people who haven’t been diagnosed with anything but do suffer low self-esteem, body image issues, and relationship problems.

Addicted To The Sun? Research Shows It’s In Your Genes (Biology)

According to a study of more than 260,000 people led by King’s College London researchers, sun-seeking behavior is linked to genes involved in addiction, behavioral and personality traits, and brain function.

This means that people’s behavior towards seeking sun is complicated by a genetic predisposition, and this needs to be taken into account when designing skin cancer awareness campaigns.

The researchers studied detailed health information of 2,500 twins from TwinsUK, including their sun-seeking behavior and genetics. Identical twins in a pair were more likely to have a similar sun-seeking behavior than non-identical twins, indicating that genetics play a key role.

The team then identified five key genes involved in sun-seeking behavior from a further analysis of 260,000 participants from other cohorts. Some of these genes have been linked to behavioral traits associated with risk-taking and addiction, including smoking, cannabis and alcohol consumption and number of sexual partners.

Their results suggested that tackling excessive sun exposure or use of tanning beds might be more challenging than expected, as it is influenced by genetic factors. 

References: Sanna, M et al. Looking for sunshine: genetic predisposition to sun-seeking in 265,000 individuals of European ancestry. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 2020.