Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The lessons of psychology

Psychology has more than its fair share of silly research and surveys conducted just to get in the papers, but the following findings come from reputable sources like The Psychologist, The Rialto, and Mind, Brain and Narrative

  • Make them smile! - If you read a poem while holding a pen between your teeth, you'll view it more positively than if you hold the pen only in the lips. This is because holding a pen between your teeth makes you smile, and your facial expression affects your emotion. Apparently there's substantial scientific evidence for this
  • Reading fiction's good for you - "The results showed a positive correlation between exposure to narrative fiction and performance-based measures of social ability ... Furthermore, there was a negative correlation between exposure to non-fiction and social ability"
  • Poetry might not be so good for you - During a recent research project into reading habits conducted at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, a cross-section of the public nominated poetry to be the most annoying category of book currently published .... after a sustained period of reading poems, thirty six complained of headaches or migraine, twenty-seven suffered indigestion, and two became argumentative resulting in violent exchange .... eighty-two of the hundred people tested did fall asleep for prolonged periods at some point during their reading of poetry. ... Of the twenty [sic] that were reading only first collections, forty-five became tense and highly agitated, thirty-eight were lethargic and dulled and three were recorded as feeling nauseous, while one particular man became sexually aroused and had to be physically removed from the building.
  • Why do you write? - Simon Kyaga et al (Karolinska Instiutet, Sweden) has compared the occupation of over a million mental health patients over a 40 year period. The conclusions were that "In contrast with creative professions as a whole, focusing only on authors revealed a far stronger link with mental illness. Authors, compared with controls, were more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, drug abuse, and to take their own lives"
  • What does your writing reveal about your state of mind? - predictors of health are ... (1) high levels of positive emotion words, and moderate levels (not high or low levels) of negative words ... (2) increases in the use of causal words ... (3) switches in the use of different pronouns"
  • Don't worry about illegible texts - Under the appropriate circumstances, a text that induces less fluent reading should result in deeper processing. This seems so when typeface complexity is increased but not for increased syntactic complexity.
  • Happy families? - Parents are no happier than childless couples. In fact, once the children leave home, parents are sadder.
  • Know thyself - "People appear to know other people better than they know themselves, at least when it comes to predicting future behaviour and achievement. Why? People display a rather accurate grasp of human nature in general, knowing how social behaviour is shaped by situational and internal constraints. They just exempt themselves from this understanding, thinking instead that their own actions are more a product of their agency, intentions, and free will"

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