Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


You’ve got to feel sorry for the millennials

Researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London, have surveyed 2,000 people aged 18 to 70 on behalf of a Taiwanese electronics company to discover what worried them the most. They were concerned with trivial or “first world” stuff.

The biggest worries were:

  • waiting at home all day for online deliveries
  • forgetting passwords
  • fear of leaving their phones at home (See FOBO)
  • not getting enough “likes” on Instagram (See “like-buttons“)

The millennials in the study complained about avocado anxiety i.e. worrying about the quality of avocados in supermarkets – too hard or too mushy? Can’t have all those hipsters skipping  brunch can we?

And a third of Londoners worry about a shortage of Prosecco! This is twice the proportion of the rest of the country. Well they say capital cities don’t reflect the rest of the country.

The researchers compared the results with those from twenty years ago. In 1997 people were worried about:

  • having a happy relationship
  • earning enough to pay the bills
  • getting on the housing ladder

And people say that’s the kind of thing young people are worrying about today. It’s always been a worry!

But back to those fickle Millennials – so much has been written about this generation born between the 80s and the noughts. Sometimes called generation Y because they came after generation X.

Millennials grew up in an electronics-filled and increasingly online and socially-networked world. They are the generation that has received the most marketing attention. As the most ethnically diverse generation, Millennials tend to be tolerant of difference. Having been raised under the mantra “follow your dreams” and being told they were special, they tend to be confident.

While largely a positive trait, the Millennial generation’s confidence has been argued to spill over into the realms of entitlement and narcissism.

They are often seen as slightly more optimistic about the future than other generations – despite the fact that they are the first generation since the those born between the two world wars that is expected to be less economically successful than their parents.

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Facebook’s “like” button is harming users

Who says so? Well the guy who created it ten years ago.

Justin Rosenstein has removed the app from his phone over fears of the psychological effects of social media.

He says “It is very common for humans to develop things with the best intentions and for them to have unintended negative consequences“. The thumbs-up symbol only brings “bright dings of pseudo pleasure“.

The like button was designed to increase your engagement with Facebook while analysing your preferences. Basically companies want your attention and your preferences so they can harvest more data about you to sell to advertisers.

You are making them mega-rich.

Other former employees of high-tech companies have warned about the dangerous effects of the “attention economy”.  Being distracted by technology seriously affects people’s ability to focus and also damages relationships.

See my earlier post on this here.


Are you teaching your kids to be quitters?

Biz Psycho

Not a good thing! Research clearly shows the importance of perseverance in school and in life.

So next time you are struggling with a task in front of your children don’t make it look too easy. By trying and repeatedly failing at a task you are helping children understand the value and importance of persistence.

Many cultures emphasise the value of effort and perseverance. This emphasis is substantiated by scientific research: individual differences in conscientiousness, self-control and ‘grit’ correlate with academic outcomes independent of IQ” wrote scientists at  the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

They wondered if persistence and quitting could be learnt. “Does seeing an adult exert effort to succeed encourage infants to persist longer at their own challenging tasks?”

In an experiment they ran at MIT, reported in the journal Science, 250 15-month old children watched adults perform a task getting a keychain attached to a carabiner out…

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Another supermarket helping people on autism spectrum

I’ve already posted about what my local Tesco store is doing to help people with this disorder and I noticed that the Rawtenstall branch of ASDA, in association with the National Autistic Society is doing its bit as well.

The Meet Jenny  activity was inspired by the way her 4-year old boy was helped by using symbols and pictures. So her little helper activity is a velcro-backed visual shopping list showing a range of items. It helps people with autism to avoid being overloaded with information.


Happiness is being cash rich

Yes, rich enough to employ other people to do the stuff you don’t like doing – like cleaning.

A study of 6,000 people in the Netherlands, Canada, Denmark and the USA asked people how much they spent outsourcing disliked tasks.

Despite the vague description people didn’t hesitate to identify scrubbing the toilet bowl as their least favourite task.

The researchers also gave 60 people $40 to spend on two occasions. On one weekend they had to buy a material product and on another they had to buy something that would save them time.

In all cases people were happier spending money to save time, such as taking a taxi home. People with less money were even happier. So ideal for the cash rich and time poor.

The Professor who ran these studies has since employed a host of domestic services and moved house to cut down commuting time and spend more time with her partner.

What happened to the protestant ethic?

Other post on happiness


Swearing has its plus side

As someone who doesn’t swear a lot and gets a bit embarrassed when I hear young women using profanities I was surprised to read some of the latest research on this subject.

Researchers have discovered that as much as fine words might inspire you actually swearing gives you strength.

Psychologists led by Richard Stephens from Keele University measured people’s grip strength and exercise bike performance. They found they did better if they were allowed to swear at the researchers while doing it. 

Stephens wanted to investigate the power of swearing as “there are strong links between swearing and emotional arousal” and wanted to see how deep the links went. Earlier research had found that people resisted pain better if they were allowed to swear.

In his pain research he had people holding their hand in iced water for as long as they could. They were allowed to repeat a swear word of their choice or a neutral word. Those swearing lasted longer but their heart rate increased. He wondered whether it was connected to the fight or flight response in which case they might also be stronger when swearing as they prepared themselves for action.

So swearing during the strength tests proved effective – but there was no evidence of a fight or flight response. However swearing lessens pain and when people felt less pain they were stronger.

Stephens wonders whether or not the fact that the people in the experiment knew the words were taboo but said them anyway somehow loosened up their constraints and let them go for it a bit more.

So expect more cursing down the gym any day now!

And in a completely different field of endeavour, book publishing, it seems that they have overcome the traditional reluctance to use swear words on the cover of their books. Because they sell more!

Last year there were 181 titles with the F word in the title, three times more than the previous year. And titles with the word shit in them have doubled (so have shit titles in my view but that’s another story).

So you can buy cookbooks, style books, colouring books and self-help manuals all featuring the F word.