Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The Myth of the Eight Hour Sleep

We were told by our mothers and our teachers that it was essential to have an eight hour stretch of sleep per night. Modern researchers have shed new light on such ideas regarding sleep pattern revealing many new things, while this article by Stephanie Hegarty (BBC World Service) combines research with historical writings to argue that perhaps interrupted sleep cycles might be good for you.
We often worry about lying awake in the middle of the night - but it could be good for you. A growing body of evidence from both science and history suggests that the eight-hour sleep may be unnatural.
In the early 1990s, psychiatrist Thomas Wehr conducted an experiment in which a group of people were plunged into darkness for 14 hours every day for a month. It took some time for their sleep to regulate but by the fourth week the subjects had settled into a very distinct sleeping pattern. They slept first for four hours, then woke for one or two hours before falling into a second four-hour sleep. Though sleep scientists were impressed by the study, among the general public the idea that we must sleep for eight consecutive hours persists.
In 2001, historian Roger Ekirch of Virginia Tech published a seminal paper, drawn from 16 years of research, revealing a wealth of historical evidence that humans used to sleep in two distinct chunks. His book At Day's Close: Night in Times Past, published four years later, unearths more than 500 references to a segmented sleeping pattern - in diaries, court records, medical books and literature, from Homer's Odyssey to an anthropological account of modern tribes in Nigeria.
Much like the experience of Wehr's subjects, these references describe a first sleep which began about two hours after dusk, followed by waking period of one or two hours and then a second sleep.
"It's not just the number of references - it is the way they refer to it, as if it was common knowledge," Ekirch says.
During this waking period people were quite active. They often got up, went to the toilet or smoked tobacco and some even visited neighbours. Most people stayed in bed, read, wrote and often prayed. Countless prayer manuals from the late 15th Century offered special prayers for the hours in between sleeps. And these hours weren't entirely solitary - people often chatted to bed-fellows or had sex. A doctor's manual from 16th Century France even advised couples that the best time to conceive was not at the end of a long day's labour but "after the first sleep", when "they have more enjoyment" and "do it better".
Ekirch found that references to the first and second sleep started to disappear during the late 17th Century. This started among the urban upper classes in northern Europe and over the course of the next 200 years filtered down to the rest of Western society. By the 1920s the idea of a first and second sleep had receded entirely from our social consciousness. He attributes the initial shift to improvements in street lighting, domestic lighting and a surge in coffee houses - which were sometimes open all night. As the night became a place for legitimate activity and as that activity increased, the length of time people could dedicate to rest dwindled.
In his new book, Evening's Empire, historian Craig Koslofsky puts forward an account of how this happened. 
"Associations with night before the 17th Century were not good," he says. The night was a place populated by people of disrepute - criminals, prostitutes and drunks.
"Even the wealthy, who could afford candlelight, had better things to spend their money on. There was no prestige or social value associated with staying up all night."
That changed in the wake of the Reformation and the counter-Reformation. Protestants and Catholics became accustomed to holding secret services at night, during periods of persecution. If earlier the night had belonged to reprobates, now respectable people became accustomed to exploiting the hours of darkness.
This trend migrated to the social sphere too, but only for those who could afford to live by candlelight. With the advent of street lighting, however, socialising at night began to filter down through the classes. In 1667, Paris became the first city in the world to light its streets, using wax candles in glass lamps. It was followed by Lille in the same year and Amsterdam two years later, where a much more efficient oil-powered lamp was developed. London didn't join their ranks until 1684 but by the end of the century, more than 50 of Europe's major towns and cities were lit at night. Night became fashionable and spending hours lying in bed was considered a waste of time.
"People were becoming increasingly time-conscious and sensitive to efficiency, certainly before the 19th Century," says Roger Ekirch. "But the industrial revolution intensified that attitude by leaps and bounds."
Strong evidence of this shifting attitude is contained in a medical journal from 1829 which urged parents to force their children out of a pattern of first and second sleep.
"If no disease or accident there intervene, they will need no further repose than that obtained in their first sleep, which custom will have caused to terminate by itself just at the usual hour.
"And then, if they turn upon their ear to take a second nap, they will be taught to look upon it as an intemperance not at all redounding to their credit."
Today, most people seem to have adapted quite well to the eight-hour sleep, but Ekirch believes many sleeping problems may have roots in the human body's natural preference for segmented sleep as well as the ubiquity of artificial light. This could be the root of a condition called sleep maintenance insomnia, where people wake during the night and have trouble getting back to sleep, he suggests.
The condition first appears in literature at the end of the 19th Century, at the same time as accounts of segmented sleep disappear.
"For most of evolution we slept a certain way," says sleep psychologist Gregg Jacobs. "Waking up during the night is part of normal human physiology."
The idea that we must sleep in a consolidated block could be damaging, he says, if it makes people who wake up at night anxious, as this anxiety can itself prohibit sleeps and is likely to seep into waking life too.
Russell Foster, a professor of circadian [body clock] neuroscience at Oxford, shares this point of view.
"Many people wake up at night and panic," he says. "I tell them that what they are experiencing is a throwback to the bi-modal sleep pattern."
But the majority of doctors still fail to acknowledge that a consolidated eight-hour sleep may be unnatural.
"Over 30% of the medical problems that doctors are faced with stem directly or indirectly from sleep. But sleep has been ignored in medical training and there are very few centres where sleep is studied," he says.
Jacobs suggests that the waking period between sleeps, when people were forced into periods of rest and relaxation, could have played an important part in the human capacity to regulate stress naturally.
In many historic accounts, Ekirch found that people used the time to meditate on their dreams.
"Today we spend less time doing those things," says Dr Jacobs. "It's not a coincidence that, in modern life, the number of people who report anxiety, stress, depression, alcoholism and drug abuse has gone up."
So the next time you wake up in the middle of the night, think of your pre-industrial ancestors and relax. Lying awake could be good for you.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Video: Thought Experiments

A series of famous experiments presented in 60 seconds presented by the Open University

Friday, 24 February 2012

How to Plant Ideas into Someone's Mind

Planting ideas in people's minds is done every second of every day through advertising on a massive scale, but also on a personal level through conversation where we will others to agree with our own opinion and vice versa. Our minds appear like sponges willing to accept whatever they are told and spread it to the next person, but how does this transfer of ideas and information happen? The following article comes from http://lifehacker.com/ and is written by Adam Dachis. 

Before we get started, it's worth noting that planting an idea in someone's mind without them knowing is a form of manipulation. We're not here to judge you, but this is the sort of thing most people consider evil, so you probably shouldn't actually do anything you read here. Instead, use this information to stay sharp.
If you've seen the film Inception, you might think that planting an idea in someone's mind is a difficult thing to do. It's not. It's ridiculously easy and it's tough to avoid. We're going to take a look at some of the ways it can work.

Reverse Psychology Actually Works

Reverse psychology has become an enormous cliché. I think this peaked in 1995 with the release of the film Jumanji. (If you've seen it and remember it, you know what I'm talking about.) The problem is that most people look at reverse psychology in a very simple way. For example, you'd say "I don't care if you want to go risk your life jumping out of a plane" to try and convince someone not to go skydiving. This isn't reverse psychology—it's passive-aggressive. So let's leave that all behind and start from scratch.
If you're going to use logic reversals in your favor, you need to be subtle. Let's say you want your roommate to do the dishes because it's his or her turn. There's always this approach:
"Hey, would you mind doing the dishes? It's your turn."
But in this example we're assuming your room mate is lazy and the nice approach isn't going to get the job done. So what do you do? Something like this:
"Hey, I've decided I don't want to do the dishes any more and am just going to start buying disposable stuff. Is that cool with you? If you want to give me some money, I can pick up extras for you, too."
What this does is present the crappy alternative to not doing the dishes without placing any blame. Rather than being preoccupied with an accusation, your roommate is left to only consider the alternative. This is how reverse psychology can be effective, so long as you say it like you mean it.

Never Talk About the Idea — Talk Around It

Getting someone to want to do something can be tough if you know they're not going to want to do it, so you need to make them believe it was their idea. This is a common instruction, especially for salespeople, but it's much easier said than done. You have to look at planting ideas in the same way you'd look at solving a mystery. Slowly but surely you offer the target a series of clues until the obvious conclusion is the one you want. The key is to be patient, because if you rush through your "clues" it will be obvious. If you take it slow, the idea will form naturally in their mind all by itself.

Let's say you're trying to get your friend to eat healthier food. This is a good aim, but you've got a tough enemy: they're addicted to the Colonel and need a bucket of fried chicken at least once a day. Out of concern you tell them to eat healthier. They either think that's a good idea and then never do anything or just tell you to stop nagging them. For them to realize what they're doing to their body, they need to have an epiphany and you can make that happen by talking around the issue.
To do this you need to be very clever and very subtle, otherwise it will be obvious. You can't just say "oh, I read today that fried chicken is killing 10 million children in Arkansas every year" because that's a load of crap and comes with an incredibly obvious motivation for saying it. If chicken is the target, you need to make chicken seem really unappealing. Next time you sneeze, make a joke about coming down with the avian flu. When you're ordering at a restaurant together, verbally convey your decision to order something other than chicken because you just learned how most chicken is processed by restaurants. When you've done enough of these things—and, again, with enough space between them so that it doesn't seem like odd behavior—you can start being a little more aggressive and stop going with your friend to get fried chicken. You can also take proactive steps to improve your own health and tell your friend 1) what you're doing, and 2) how well it's working for you. After a few weeks, if your friend hasn't decided to reconsider his or her position on frequent fried chicken, you can casually mention it and they should be much more open to having a real discussion.
Underselling is probably one of the easiest and most effective ways to plant an idea in someone's mind. This is another version of reverse psychology but at a less aggressive level. Let's say you're trying to sell someone a hard drive. They could buy a 250GB, 500GB, or 1TB hard drive. You want to sell the largest hard drive possible because those cost more and mean more money for you. Your buyer is coming in with the idea that they want to spend the least money possible. You're not going to get very far by telling them they should spend more money when you know they don't want to. Instead, you need to cater to what they want: the cheap option. Here's a sample dialogue:
Buyer: Can you tell me about this 250GB hard drive? I want to make sure it will work for me.
You: What kind of computer do you have and what do you want to use it for?
Buyer: I have a 2-year old Windows laptop and I need it to store my photos. I have about 30GB of photos.
You: 250GB is definitely more than enough for just storing your photos, so as long as you don't have many more files you might want to put onto the drive it should be just fine for your needs.
This last sentence instils doubt in the buyer. You could even add "you'd only need a larger drive if you wanted to be absolutely sure you'll have enough space in the future" but that might be pushing it a little bit. The point is, if you appear to have their best interests at heart it can be easy to make them think they want to buy more from you.
Again, I'd like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that planting ideas in the minds of others is not necessarily a nice thing to do. Use this information to detect when someone's doing it to you and not necessarily as a guide to do it to somebody else.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

3 New Dangerous Drug Habits for Teenagers

Last week I posted about why teenagers are so vulnerable to drug abuse (read it here) and the below article follows that up superbly. Drugs are so readily available to everybody now that teens are following suit and experimenting and depending on drugs in different ways that perhaps were previously not available. This is dangerous both for physical and mental health particularly in those so young and suggestible as teenagers. 
The article was taken from LiveScience and outlines 3 new ways in which drugs are being abused by teenagers.  

1. Energy drinks in elementary school

In recent years, drinks that combine alcohol with caffeine, such as Four Loko, have been blamed for the deaths of teens and college students. But a new epidemic involves younger children: elementary school students are drinking highly caffeinated energy drinks to catch a buzz. Even without alcohol, these drinks are dangerous to kids' health.

"Energy drinks are gateway for elementary school kids," said Mike Gimbel, a national substance abuse educator. "They drink it like it's water. Nurses have kids coming in with heart palpitations."
Gimbel said he has also observed a growing fascination among elementary school students with caffeinated gel strips that you place on the tongue, such as ones made by the brand Sheets.
"One strip is equal to a cup of coffee, but kids are putting five or six in their mouth at once," he said. "You can overdose on caffeine by taking three or four."
Overconsumption of caffeine, especially in young children who have smaller bodies, can cause seizures, strokes or even sudden death, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

2. Huffing Dust-Off

Huffing, or inhaling household products, is not a new phenomenon. But experts have started to see an increase in teens huffing the computer cleaner called Dust-Off, a trend that started a few years ago.
Dust-Off, sold at office supply stores, can be inhaled to produce a high lasting a few seconds to a few minutes.
"One of the attractions is that it can be felt almost immediately," said Harvey Weiss, executive director of the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition. "You don't have to wait for something to happen."
Inhalants can cause nausea, nosebleeds, impaired coordination and, in some cases, death.
According to a study from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in 2010, about 2 million kids ages 12 to 17 had tried inhalants, the most popular being glue, shoe polish or toluene, a solvent.
Weiss said that parents should look to see if their children have a "sudden drop in grades, a rash around mouth or nose, a change in friends, weight loss or an odor of products on their breath."
Thirty-seven states currently regulate the sale of inhalants to minors, but many of these products are easily accessible within the home, he said.
"I hear from parents, especially those who have lost children, that they were aware of inhalants, but never imagined their kids would do them, so it wasn't discussed," Weiss said.

3. Pharm parties

At age 14, Brittany Gaydosh, walked into a New Year's Eve party at a friend's house, drank a couple of shots of Bacardi 151 rum, and made her way to a Ziploc bag filled with pills.
"There were Ecstasy, Xanax, Percocets, Valium and other pills in the bag that night," Gaydosh said. "I took four Ecstasy pills and a Xanax."
Throughout her teenage years, Gaydosh attended at least 20 parties like this, the now 23-year-old said. She would take handfuls of pills, wash some down with alcohol, and save the rest for later. And she's not alone. According to experts, such parties, known as "Skittles parties" (because of the brightly colored pills) or "pharm parties," have rapidly gained popularity among teens.
"At a lot of the parties, they just throw the pills on the table," Gaydosh said. "It's like candy that you can take home with you."
Teens are taking painkillers, mainly highly addictive opioids such as OxyContin and Vicodin, from medicine cabinets in their own homes, said Dr. Petros Levounis, director of the Addiction Institute of New York in Manhattan.
"They're getting these prescription pills from parents or grandparents," Levounis said. "Say I go to the dentist for a tooth extraction and I get 30 painkillers and maybe take one. My granddaughter could go into my medicine cabinet without me knowing and bring the rest of the pills to a party."
A recent report from researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that each year, more people die from prescription painkiller overdoses than from heroin and cocaine overdoses combined.
"Addiction to prescription opioids has become the most important problem we face," Levounis said.

Full article: http://www.livescience.com/18539-3-dangerous-drug-habits-teens.html

Monday, 20 February 2012

Young Football (Soccer) Star Talks Up Hypnosis

Top sports people have long used psychological method such as hypnosis to improve their performance (read more about sports hypnosis here and here) by enhancing their concentration, focus, confidence and motivation in particular. The piece below comes from an article in Mirror Football and highlight how hypnosis and psychology are becoming an ever larger aspect of professional sport particularly in gifted young players who understand the importance of having an edge over opponents in any way possible. The article surrounds Birmingham FC's Nathan Redmond, who also represents England at under 18 level, who talks about his lack of anxiety playing against Chelsea FC, one of Europe's biggest teams.
Redmond’s form, which included scoring a brilliant winner against Portsmouth last week, has helped Birmingham enjoy an unbeaten 13-game run.
And he says Saturday lunchtime's televised FA Cup fifth round tie at Stamford Bridge holds no fears for him, after privately hiring a sports psychologist.
The England Under-18 international said: “Chelsea is one of the biggest teams I will have played against and I’ll be looking to showcase my talent.
“I have my own little ritual - I zone out in the changing room beforehand.
“I get into my zone and I can go from there to any pitch or stadium, as you just have to do what you have trained for.
“I have been working with a performance coach. We get together when we can, or over Skype or a quick phone call.
“It is a bit like self-hypnosis, but it is not as deep as that.
“It is about if you have bad games you can shut out anything that is bothering you.
“It is something that has helped me since I was 15. It is like talking to yourself inside your head and it is really quite useful.”

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Inside the Mind of a Sniper

I posted earlier in the month an article entitled 'The Mind of a Serial Killer' and it got me thinking about what the differences were between a serial killer and a trained military killer, not breaking their own country's laws but instead following them. Maybe the answer will not be found in this article but I think it's an another insight into the mind of killers. 
Article comes from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/ and is written by Stephanie Hegarty.
A young cowboy from Texas who joined the elite US Navy Seals became the most deadly sniper in American history. In a book published this month he provides an unusual insight into the psychology of a soldier who waits, watches and kills.
As US forces surged into Iraq in 2003, Chris Kyle was handed a sniper rifle and told to watch as a marine battalion entered an Iraqi town. A crowd had come out to greet them. Through the scope he saw a woman, with a child close by, approaching his troops. She had a grenade ready to detonate in her hand.
"This was the first time I was going to have to kill someone. I didn't know whether I was going to be able to do it, man, woman or whatever," he says.
"You're running everything through your mind. This is a woman, first of all. Second of all, am I clear to do this, is this right, is it justified? And after I do this, am I going to be fried back home? Are the lawyers going to come after me saying, 'You killed a woman, you're going to prison'?"
But he didn't have much time to debate these questions.
"She made the decision for me, it was either my fellow Americans die or I take her out."
He pulled the trigger.
Kyle remained in Iraq until 2009. According to official Pentagon figures, he killed 160 people, the most career sniper kills in the history of the US military. His own estimate is much higher, at 255 kills. According to army intelligence, he was christened "The Devil" by Iraqi insurgents, who put a $20,000 (£13,000) bounty on his head.
Married with two children, he has now retired from the military and has published a book in which he claims to have no regrets, referring to the people he killed as "savages".
Job satisfaction
But a study into snipers in Israel has shown that snipers are much less likely than other soldiers to dehumanise their enemy in this way. Part of the reason for this may be that snipers can see their targets with great clarity and sometimes must observe them for hours or even days.
"It's killing that is very distant but also very personal," says anthropologist Neta Bar. "I would even say intimate."
She studied attitudes to killing among 30 Israeli snipers who served in the Palestinian territories from 2000 to 2003, to examine whether killing is unnatural or traumatic for human beings. She chose snipers in particular because, unlike pilots or tank drivers who shoot at big targets like buildings, the sniper picks off individual people. What she found was that while many Israeli soldiers would refer to Palestinian militants as "terrorists", snipers generally referred to them as human beings.
"The Hebrew word for human being is Son of Adam and this was the word they used by far more than any other when they talked about the people that they killed," she says.
Snipers almost never referred to the men they killed as targets, or used animal or machine metaphors. Some interviewees even said that their victims were legitimate warriors.
"Here is someone whose friends love him and I am sure he is a good person because he does this out of ideology," said one sniper who watched through his scope as a family mourned the man he had just shot. "But we from our side have prevented the killing of innocents, so we are not sorry about it."
This justification - which was supported by friends, family and wider Israeli society - could be one reason why the snipers didn't report any trauma after killing, she suggests.
"Being prepared for all those things that might crack their conviction, actually enabled them to kill without suffering too much."
She also noted that the snipers she studied were rational and intelligent young men. In most military forces, snipers are subject to rigorous testing and training and are chosen for aptitude. In the UK, they complete a three-month training course, with a pass rate of only one in four. The US marine sniper course is one of the hardest training courses in the military, with a failure rate of more than 60% and a long list of prerequisites for recruits, including "a high degree of maturity, equanimity and common sense".
Research in Canada has also found that snipers tend to score lower on tests for post-traumatic stress and higher on tests for job satisfaction than the average soldier.
"By and large, they are very healthy, well-adjusted young men," says Peter Bradley at the Royal Military College of Canada, who is studying 150 snipers in Afghanistan. "When you meet them you're taken by how sensible and level-headed they are."
Don't tell your wife
But both the Israeli and the Canadian studies only spoke to snipers who were still on active duty. Neta Bar suspects many of them could experience problems in years to come, after they return to normal society. When former Soviet sniper Ilya Abishev fought in Afghanistan in 1988 he was immersed in Soviet propaganda and was convinced what he was doing was right. Regret came much later.
"We believed we were defending the Afghan people," he says. "Now I am not proud, I am ashamed of my behaviour."
For police snipers, who operate within normal society rather than a war zone, doubts, or even trauma, can arise much sooner.
Brian Sain, a sniper and deputy at the sheriff's department in Texas, says many police and army snipers struggle with having killed in such an intimate way.
"It's not something you can tell your wife, it's not something you can tell your pastor," says Mr Sain, a member of Spotter, an American association that supports traumatised snipers. "Only another sniper understands how that feels."
But for the US's deadliest sniper, remorse does not seem to be an issue.
"It is a weird feeling," he admits. "Seeing an actual dead body... knowing that you're the one that caused it now to no longer move."
But that is as far as he goes.
"Every person I killed I strongly believe that they were bad," he says. "When I do go face God there is going to be lots of things I will have to account for but killing any of those people is not one of them." 

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Video: How Does Your Memory Work?

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

What is Love? The Psychology of Love and Relationships

The 14th of February is known throughout much of the world as 'Valentine's Day' and the day of love. But what exactly is 'love' and can it be explained by psychologists and their empirical ways? The below article is from http://www.psychologytoday.com/ and was written by Lisa J. Cohen Ph.D.
Happy Valentine's Day!!

How do we define love?
What is love? How do we define it? Is love one thing or a set of many things? Are there different types of love? Is love the same for different types of relationships? Even as far back as the ancient Greeks, people have struggled with the nature of love. Poets have written about love perhaps as long as poets have been writing. Psychologists may lack the eloquence of poets but through empirical research, we can study the nature of love systematically. We can observe people in different situations, interview them about their life experiences and develop questionnaires to investigate people's attitudes and behaviors. This way, definitions of love are drawn not only from personal opinion but from scientific investigations.

How are factor analyses used in the study of love?
Is love one entity or is it made up of many different parts? One way to explore the structure of love is through factor analysis. This is an important statistical technique that shows how different items group together. It is used to investigate if a single idea is made up of separate sub-categories. Researchers create questionnaires based on a series of items, words or scenarios related to love. They then ask research participants to rate their love relationships using these questionnaires. Through factor analyses, researchers can then identify clusters of items that inter-correlate (or group together).  These clusters, or factors, can then be labeled as components of love.

Are there different types of love?
Some researchers suggest that there are many types of love. Others suggest one core feature to love that cuts across different types of relationships. For example, in 1977 using factor analysis of 1500 items related to love, John Lee categorized 6 major types of love: eros (erotic desire for an idealized other), ludus (playful or gamelike love), storge (slowly developing attachment), mania (obsessive and jealous love), agape (altruistic love), and pragma (practical love). In their own 1984 factor analytic study, Robert Sternberg and Susan Gracek identified one overarching factor, which they termed interpersonal communication, sharing and support (later called intimacy).

What is the triangular theory of love?
Drawing from previous research, Robert Sternberg proposed the triangular theory of love in a 1986 paper. In this model, all love is composed of three elements: intimacypassion and commitment. Intimacy involves closeness, caring, and emotional support. Passion refers to states of emotional and physiological arousal. This includes sexual arousal and physical attraction as well as other kinds of intense emotional experiences.  Commitment involves a decision to commit to loving the other and trying to maintain that love over time. Using different combinations of these three elements, Sternberg described eight different kinds of love: nonlove (low on all 3 elements), liking (high on intimacy only), infatuated love (passion only), empty love (commitment only),romantic love (intimacy and passion), companionate love (intimacy and commitment), fatuous love (passion and commitment), and consummate love (all three together).

How does love differ for lovers, family and friends?
Research suggests that the feeling of intimacy, emotional connection and closeness is central to all types of love. What may differ across relationships is the degree of passion as well as the level of commitment. We can speculate that all love relationships would have high levels of intimacy; romantic love would have high levels of passion; and familial and long-term romantic relationships high levels of commitment. In fact, Sternberg and Gracek found that the intimacy component of love cut across all close relationships, with similar ratings for family, friendship and romantic relationships. In a 1985 study by Keith Davis, spouses or lovers did not differ that much from close friends on liking (similar to Sternberg's concept of intimacy), but did differ on loving (which they conceptualized as liking plus passion and commitment).

Do approaches to romantic love vary across cultures?

The distinction between collectivist cultures and individualistic cultures is frequently made in cross-cultural studies. In collectivist cultures, found in many Asian countries, an individual's identity is tied to his or her social group. In individualistic countries, such as the United States and Canada, the individual's independent identity is prioritized. People from collectivist cultures expect love to grow as the marriage unfolds over time. There is less emphasis on romance and infatuation. Instead people emphasize practical concerns, such as income potential and compatibility with the extended family. In contrast, people from individualist countries emphasize the passionate side of love when looking for a spouse. They focus on feelings of excitement and physical attraction.
Using Sternberg's triangular theory of love, Ge Gao measured the role of intimacy, passion and commitment in 90 Chinese and 77 American couples in a 2001 study. Ratings of passion were higher in American than Chinese couples, but ratings of intimacy and commitment did not differ.

Article in complete form here: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/handy-psychology-answers/201102/the-psychology-love

Sunday, 12 February 2012

The Trouble With Confidence

Confidence is something that affects our lives in every way. Whoever could bottle confidence would be made a billionaire overnight because it is something we each thrive off and crave for. Without confidence we would most likely never leave our houses, but with it in abundance we feel we can conquer the world. Importantly we somehow have the knack of achieving things when we are in a confident mood, be it in sports, business or relationships. The below article discusses the topic of confidence and why it can also be a troublesome phenomena.

The trouble with confidence is that it's a completely unreliable guide to decision making. Yet we tend to trust it implicitly, in ourselves and in others. This insight belongs to psychologist Daniel Kahneman - Nobel Prize winning cartographer of the human mind, and the author of Thinking, Fast, and Slow.

Kahneman's decades of research, much of it in collaboration with his close friend and colleague Amos Tversky, has mapped out two systems of thinking: the fast (intuitive) and the slow (deliberative). Experts in a subject - chess, for example - tend to make pretty good snap judments in their area of expertise. This is because they've internalized and automated whole chunks of knowledge and patterns of thought through years of practice. If a Grand Master in chess is confident in a move he's made quickly, there's a good chance he's right.

The trouble, says Kahneman, is that we're often confident in our intuitive judgments even when we have no idea what we're doing. And to make matters worse, we tend to evaluate the reliability of other people's decision making on the same basis - if they're confident, they must know what they're talking about.

This can become disastrous when taken to the national or global level. Given a choice between two presidential candidates, we're likely to choose the one who appears more confident, regardless of whether or not she's the wiser, better informed candidate. Leaders of nations, deeply confident in diametrically opposed positions, wage protracted wars with enormous human costs and no satisfactory resolutions.  Born in Nazi Germany and raised in Israel, Kahneman has ample firsthand experience of how this plays out.

So what are we to do about it? While Kahneman would be the first to admit that the mind's habitual traps are deeply pernicious (how do you escape a labyrinth of your own making?), he has spent a lifetime questioning his own and other people's judgment - asking "what do I think I know and why do I think I know it?" and testing the validity of those beliefs. We can do the same. Maybe not in he heat of the moment, but later, upon reflection, we can cultivate the habit of analyzing and evaluating our own decisions.  And while we'll never be flawless, decision-making machines (even in those rare scenarios when we know most of the variables), with enough practice we can undermine some of our blind confidence in confidence.

By Jason Gots

Full article: http://bigthink.com/ideas/42361 from: http://bigthink.com/

Friday, 10 February 2012

The Mind of a Serial Killer

Speculation about who might be the alleged serial killer dumping human remains along beaches on Long Island may be unwarranted so early in the investigation, criminologists say. But despite having diverse motives, serial killers do tend to share certain personality traits, and experts are learning more about what makes these killers tick, including a desire to convince others that they're "good people."
News outlets have reported that police are considering the possibility that some of the killings were committed by a police officer or ex-police officer. One psychic is even claiming credit for predicting (very vaguely) where one of the bodies would be found. But at this stage in the investigation, criminal psychologists and criminologists say, it's too early to jump to conclusions regarding the perpetrator.
"Unless you are directly involved in the case, you've been at the crime scene, you've seen all the files, anyone else is just using the typical white male, mid-to-late 20s profile," said Michael Aamodt, a professor of psychology at Radford University in Virginia who maintains a research database of more than 1,700 convicted serial killers.
When you break down the numbers, Aamodt told LiveScience, that profile accounts for less than one in five serial killers. In research presented in 2007 at a Society for Police and Criminal Psychology meeting in Massachusetts, Aamodt and his co-authors found that of the killers in their database, 90 percent were male and 74 percent were white. But when all of the demographic variables were combined, only about 18 percent of killers were white males in their mid-to-late 20s.

Motives for murder

The problem with profiling the average serial killer is that there is no such thing, said Stanton Samenow, a criminal psychologist and author of the book "Inside the Criminal Mind" (Crown, 1984). [Read: Criminal Minds Are Different From Yours]
Serial killers — the term that generally refers to someone who kills three or more people with a "cooling off" period in between murders, though some experts argue that the definition should include killers with two victims — have many motivations, Samenow told LiveScience. Some kill for money, others for revenge and still others for the thrill of it.
In many ways, serial killers are similar to other chronic criminals, Samenow said.
"These are people for whom life is not acceptable unless they have the upper hand," he said. "They have a view of themselves as being the hub of the wheel around which everything else should revolve."

Charismatic killers

The development of a serial killer is not well-understood, Samenow said, including the role of childhood abuse.
"You can ask 8 experts and get 10 opinions on that," he said. His take, he said, is that serial killers come from all walks of life. They often show early personality traits such as a need to be in control and the refusal to take responsibility for wrongdoing, but the factors that create these traits aren't known.
While convicted serial killers often report childhood abuse, Aamodt said, he warned that the refusal to take responsibility for their actions means that serial killers' childhood reminiscences should be taken with a grain of salt.
"It's probably not surprising that serial killers would lie," Aamodt said.
Samenow, who has interviewed multiple serial killers, said the Ted Bundy-style stereotype of a personable — even charismatic — serial killer is often true.
"Sometimes it's even hard to remember while you're talking to them, that they've done the terrible things that they've done, because they can be very winsome and charming," Samenow said.
One thing almost all of the serial killers he's interviewed have in common is a desire to convince him that they're good people at heart, touting their musical or artistic talents or all the good things they've done in life, Samenow said.
"I remember one guy who said, 'Well, just because I killed somebody doesn't make me a bad person,'" Samenow said.

Choosing victims

Police have identified four of the bodies found on Long Island as young women, all of whom were working as prostitutes when they disappeared. The remains of five or six more people have recently been found, but those bodies have yet to be identified. Police aren't yet sure whether the victims are from one killer or several, though they have linked the killings of the four identified women.
"It's a very difficult investigation," said Steven Egger, a serial killer expert and criminologist at the University of Houston, Clear Lake. "It's going to take time."
Egger said the main similarity among serial killers is their choice in victims.
"The victims are vulnerable. That's the key," Egger told LiveScience." I don't care if the killer's psychotic or psychopathic or out for money, they're still going after vulnerable victims."
That makes the Long Island killer or killers' choice of prostitutes very typical, Egger said. Prostitutes are what he calls the "less-dead," people who fall through the cracks of society and are less likely to be looked for or linked together.
Even when a serial killer case becomes famous, Egger said, the victims remain overlooked.
"The highlight, the interest in serial killers is about the killer, it always has been," Egger said. "We come up with names for them, like 'The Hillside Strangler' or 'The Night Stalker' … People forget about the victims."

From LiveScience http://www.livescience.com/13712-long-island-serial-killer-psychology.html

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Instant Hypnosis? Rapid Induction Technique

We see TV shows where 'street hypnotists' in particular are able instantly to hypnotise willing volunteers into a deep sleep by simply using a handshake. This is not something I have ever learned to do but it is something I get asked about on a regular basis. 'How do they do that?' 'Is that really real?' The below article was written by Nathan Thomas
http://keystothemind.blogspot.com and sheds some light on the technique involved in such practices. 
If you are familiar with the traditional versions of the hypnotic handshake induction you will know that it works on the principle of pattern interrupts. As shaking hands is something most of us just do automatically, naturally, it means it is a hard wired unconscious pattern. (like tying your shoes, writing your signature, brushing your teeth, things you just do without thinking.) Now when this pattern is interrupted a state of total blankness is induced.

What happens is you take the mind down one track (shaking hands) which activates the unconscious pattern and automatic behaviour. Just as they are comfortable on this automatic road, and their unconscious mind is operating the behaviour without any conscious input you interrupt the pattern. Doing something unexpected which breaks the pattern throws their mind off the track, and leaves them in a state of total blankness, desperately searching for another track to jump on induces "hyper suggestibility." In other words, a total willingness to follow whatever you suggest (within reason of course!).

There are no limits to how you can interrupt the pattern or what pattern you can interrupt (do not restrict yourself to handshake inductions!). But in this particular induction we will focus on an arm pull.

Once you are shaking their hand and they are in the handshake pattern (just basically when they are in the act of shaking your hand in a natural and normal way) you give a sharp pull on their arm (the one you are shaking) with yours. Be sure to avoid seeming violent, and be gentle enough to ensure you do not cause any pain or injury (no folks, dislocating arms does not make a good induction!). This jerk on their arm breaks the pattern so dramatically they are hurled right off the track and enter a state of total and utter dumfoundment which you can quickly fill with your suggestion.

Now, when a clown offers his hand and then jerks it away when you go to shake it this leaves you in a dazed state for a second or so, but you soon snap out of it. Which is why after you have broken the pattern you must act promptly to fill the gap, otherwise they will simply gather their thoughts and carry on as usual (in my experience often with total amnesia for the interrupt). With such a dramatic break it tends to be more powerful is you are very direct and authoritarian with your suggestion.

"Sleep Now!" or just "Sleep" have proven to be very effective in my experience.

Now they're in a trance, but your work is not finished as you nearly always must then move quickly onto a deepener to ensure they stay in trance and reach an appropriate depth. Once you have this you can give your hypnotic suggestions.

Be sure to practice this method and pattern interrupts in general to enhance your skill and confidence, and be sure to have a decent understanding of how to deepen the trance, how to give them suggestions once you have them "under," and how to emerge them once you are done. A great learning tool is to simply have fun with it.

This method in particular may not work every time, if something does not turn out quite right treat it as a learning experience and leap back into the fray to do it again, and the more you practice the better you get, and the better you get the more fun you have!

Monday, 6 February 2012

Why Are Teenagers so Vulnerable to Drug Abuse?

Illicit drug use among teenagers is one of the major public health concerns in America. People who initiate drug use at younger age are more likely to get addicted than those who use drugs later in their life. According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), 90 percent of American addicts start smoking, drinking or using drugs before the age of 18 years. It also states that 25 percent of those people become addicted to some or the other drug. 

These alarming statistics clearly state that drug use during teen years is very dangerous. We need to recognize this health problem and respond to it. But first, we need to know the reasons for teens getting into drug abuse. Understanding the reasons for their susceptibility may help us. 

Statistics of tobacco, drug and alcohol abuse among teens 
The number of teens exposed to tobacco, alcohol or illicit drugs in the United States is very disturbing. As per the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 
• More than 10 percent of youth aged between 12 and 17 were illicit drug users in 2010 
• More than 8 percent of them used cigarettes 
• More than 10 percent of them used tobacco products 
• About 10 million persons aged 12 to 20 years (more than 26 percent of this age group) reported drinking alcohol 

Reasons for their vulnerability to these unhealthy habits 
Teens try drugs for various reasons. Some of the major ones include 
• Curiosity 
• Socializing with friends 
• Peer pressure 
• Perceived relaxation and fun 
• To escape from psychological pain 

Some other reasons include: 

Partial development of brain: Several studies have already found that the brain is still developing during the teen years. According to scientists at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the greatest changes to the parts of the brain that are responsible for functions such as judgment, emotions, self-control, and organization occur during teen years. So, their behavior is often mystifying – poor decision-making, emotional outbursts, irresponsibility, etc. 

Adding to this, some teens also engage in impulsive and risk-taking behavior. These things make them vulnerable to unhealthy habits like smoking, alcohol or illicit drug abuse. 

Peer pressure 
The internal pressure to do the things that their peers are doing is common among teens. Since teens feel more independent, their peers naturally play a greater role in their life. They develop close friendships with some peers and treat them as extended family members. They turn to such peers for support and guidance. 

Peer pressure to some extent is acceptable. But many times it is very dangerous. Teens generally face peer pressure when it comes to smoking (cigarettes) and drinking. Since marijuana is inexpensive and easily available, many teens are abusing this harmful drug perceiving it to be harmless. They often don’t realize that it is the gateway to other illicit drugs like heroin, cocaine, etc. 

Problems at school and other family issues 
Poor academic performance and other problems at school cause stress and depression in teens. Even, family issues at home with respect to parents may disturb them. In order to cope up with these problems, they may resort to these unhealthy habits. 

Passive parenting 
Passive parenting is one of the major risk factors for teenage illicit drug and alcohol abuse. When teens are raised themselves with little supervision or when parents are not involved in their lives, they are more likely to get into these unhealthy habits. 

Responsible parents show love and affection, monitor their teens’ activities and set rules against unhealthy habits. Passive parenting, on the other hand, is less organized and allows teens to take decisions. Due lack of proper parental supervision and guidance, they take decisions on their own (most of the times they are destructive). 

Now that you got an idea on why teens are vulnerable to illicit drug or alcohol abuse, communicate properly and help them in planning and decision-making. Suggest tips to avoid peer pressure. Also, help them with their problems at school. Showing concern and helping them take right decisions can make them stay away from these unhealthy habits.

Article Source: http://www.positivearticles.com. PositiveArticles.Com does not vouch for or necessarily endorse the contents of this article.