Male stare and citrus smell increase hand washing by 33%

An experiment to increase staff hand washing in hospitals found that a picture of male eyes placed at eye level increased hand washing by 33%. When this was combined with a citrus scent, the increase rose to as much as 50% more staff washing their hands with anti-bacterial gel before entering a patient’s room.

Psychological priming, or ‘nudges’ were used in the pilot study by researchers to determine the potential impact on hand washing – a significant factor in preventing the spread of infection. Nudges are a concept taken from behavioural science; words, images or signs that prompt behaviour in the observer.  Continue reading

Crowd psychology: safety in numbers

crowd

Image: creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by ChadCooperPhotos

The level of safety within a crowd is dependent on how much the participant identifies with the people in it, according to psychologists at Sussex University.

Researchers studying a survey of 1194 pilgrims during the 2012 Hajj – one of the five pillars of Islam that attracts 3,000,000 pilgrims to Mecca every year – made the discovery through a crowd survey.

Research by psychologists Hani Alnabusi and Dr John Drury show that if participants identify with the crowd that they are part of, this promotes expectations of support. This then results in an increase in considerate behaviour and feelings of safety. Continue reading

Crowd Psychology: Safety in Numbers

 

crowd

The level of safety within a crowd is dependent on how much the participant identifies with the people in it.

According to psychologists at Sussex University, crowds can be places of safety as well as danger.

Researchers studying a survey of 1194 pilgrims during the 2012 Hajj – one of the five pillars of Islam that attracts 3,000,000 pilgrims to Mecca every year – made the discovery through a ‘crowd survey.’

Research by psychologists Hani Alnabusi and Dr John Drury show that if the participants identify with the crowd that they are part of, this promotes expectations of support. This then results in an increase in considerate behaviour and feelings of safety. Continue reading

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Rejected: Rebuffs Inspire Creativity

rejectedSurprisingly, researchers have found that social rejection can have a positive effect on independent people – rejectees are more creative after the experience of being shunned.

Science has traditionally shown rejection to have a negative cognitive effect but according to new research by John Hopkins University and Cornelly University, this is only for those who strongly value being part of a group.

For those with a strong “independent self-concept,” research shows that rejection can actually inspire creativity.
The paper “Outside Advantage: Can Social Rejection Fuel Creative Thought?” published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, is the first to study rejection in those who are not dependant on group approval. Independent types view social rejection as a “validation,” says Sharon Kim, lead author of the study, adding:

Rejection confirms for independent people what they already feel about themselves – that they’re not like others. For such people, that distinction is a positive one leading them to greater creativity.”

Rejection has the opposite effect on those who do need to belong to a group. Typically, group rejection has been understood to negatively affect cognitive ability and cause anxiety and distress. This study, the first to look at the positive side of being rejected, goes against the media perception of rejection, says Sharon Kim.

We’re seeing in society a growing concern about the negative consequences of social rejection, thanks largely to media reports about bullying that occurs at school, in the workplace, and online. Obviously, bullying is reprehensible and produces nothing good. What we tried to show in our paper is that exclusion from a group can sometimes lead to a positive outcome when independently-minded people are the ones being excluded.” Sharon Kim

The unique research turns rejection on its head, with practical implications for business. Managers who want to employ imaginative thinkers and maximise creativity may want to take a second look at the unconventional job candidate – a traditionally easy target for rejection. Inventiveness is a valuable asset to an organisation, and all sorts of people are needed to ensure success, not just team players.

In the long term, a creative person with an “independent self-concept” would thrive on rejection, says Kim. Where repeated rebuffs would discourage someone who values inclusion, the slights could have the opposite effect on the independent thinker and continually recharge their creativity.

The independent person could see a successful career trajectory, in contrast with the person who is inhibited by social rejection.” Sharon Kim.

Notes:

“Outside Advantage: Can Social Rejection Fuel Creative Thought?” http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/articles/613/

Image credit: with thanks to RGB Freestock contributer, Sundesigns

Childhood Maltreatment Reduces Fear Circuit Connectivity, Study Shows

Circuit board imageA study by the University of Wisonsin – one of the first to examine altered fear circuitry connectivity in  relation to childhood maltreatment – has found significant evidence of changes to brain circuit connectivity in response to childhood abuse.

The findings, published in PNAS, hope to further the understanding of the commonly accepted link between childhood abuse and internalising disorders such as depression developing in adolescence and adulthood.

Childhood maltreatment has long been identified as a major risk factor in developing depression later in life, yet little is known about the alteration of connectivity of the brain’s fear circuitry – an important candidate mechanism linking abuse and the development of internalising disorders.

To examine the inner workings of fear circuitry researchers used fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to detect the resting state functionality of brain connectity. The resting state is a method of exploring the brain’s functional organization and to examine if it is altered in cases of neurological or psychiatric disease.

64 young participants in a longitudinal community study were studied to link:

  • experiences of maltreatment during childhood
  • the resting state of functional brain connectivity
  • evidence of the development of internalising symptoms

Results showed that connectivity of fear circuitry in the brain is significantly affected by experiences of maltreatment. Both males and females showed reduced connectivity in the fronto-hippocampal area (hippocampus-subgenual cingulate) yet only females showed evidence of additional altered connectivity within the fronto-hippocampal area and also the lower prefrontal -amygdala (amydala- subgenual).

The hippocampus – named after its visual resemblance to the sea horse (hippo meaning “horse” and kampus meaning “sea monster”) is a major component of the brain and plays an important role in processing information from short-term memory to long-term memory.

Study highlights:

  • lower hippocampussubgenual cingulate resting- states functional connectivity in both adolescent females and males (also known as area 25 )
  • lower function in the amygdala subgenual cingulate resting state-functional connectivity in females only
  • resting-state functional connectivity mediated the association of maltreatment during childhood with adolescent internalizing symptoms

Maltreatment in childhood, even at the lower severity levels found within a community sample, may alter the regulatory capacity of the brain’s fear circuit and lead to increased internalizing symptoms by late adolescence. Neuropsychologist and lead researcher, Dr Herringa, said:

Findings highlight the importance of fronto-hippocampal connectivity for both sexes in internalizing symptoms following mal- treatment in childhood. The impact of maltreatment during childhood on both frontoamygdala and hippocampal connectivity in females may help explain their higher risk for internalizing disorders such as anxiety and depression.”

Notes:

PNAS document: Childhood maltreatment is associated with altered fear circuitry and increased internalizing symptoms by late adolescence

Image credit: with thanks to RGB Freestock Cris DeRaud

Happiness “dips” After $37,000 GPD Per Person

happy puzzleEconomists at Warwick have found that happiness dips among people living in the wealthiest countries in a study published at Plone One, “A Reassessment of the Relationship between GDP and Life Satisfaction.”

Led by Professor of Economics, Eugenio Pronto at Warwick University, and Dr Aldo Rustichini of the Centre for Cognitive Sciences, Minnesota, the study looked into how happiness, or “life satisfaction” was affected by the rise or fall of a country’s economy.

It found that in the poorest countries, happiness was closely linked to the GDP as people’s life satisfaction increased with their renewed ability to meet their basic needs for food, housing and goods.

In rich countries, however, once income reaches around $36,000, life satisfaction peaks and then appears to dip.

The dip in happiness is caused by a rise of aspirations which, when not met, leads to disappointment and dissatisfaction. In effect, the rise in income creates a less attainable set of “Joneses” for people to keep up with.

Dr Proto said:

As countries get richer, higher levels of GDP lead to higher aspiration. But this aspiration gap – the difference between actual income and the income we would like – eats away at life satisfaction levels. In other words, what we aspire to becomes a moving target and one which moves away faster in the richest countries, causing the dip in happiness we see in our analysis.”

People in countries with a GDP per capita of below $6,700 were 12 per cent less likely to report the highest level of life satisfaction than those in countries with a GDP per capita of around $18,000.

As countries reached $20,400 GDP per capita, the increase in happiness that higher wealth brings became minimal. The probability of reporting the highest level of satisfaction changes by only two per cent between $20,400 and the very highest GDP per capita of $54,000.

This corresponds with the well-known Easterlin Paradox or “happiness-economics” – that the link between life satisfaction and GDP is more or less flat in richer countries. Rather than continuing to increase or flatten as studies have suggested, this recent study shows a drop in life satisfaction once countries go beyond a level of GDP per capita of $36,000.

Data on life satisfaction was sourced from the World Values Survey and GDP figures which, in a new approach to looking at the issue of wealth and happiness, were analysed as quantiles.

By analysing the data in this way, researchers were able to avoid imposing restrictions on the “econometric model” – a statistical model used in economics. This also enabled for a control for country-fixed effects in order to exclude differences due to culture, translation and linguistic issues. Dr Proto adds:

Whether wealth can buy a country’s happiness is a major question for governments. Many policy-makers, including in the UK, are interested in official measures of national well-being. Our new analysis has one very surprising finding which has not been reported before – that life satisfaction appears to dip beyond a certain level of wealth.”

Press release, Warwick : http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/gdphappiness

Plus One Study: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0079358

Image credit: with thanks to Billy Frank Alexander of RGB Free Stock

Happiness “dips” After $37,000 GPD Per Person

happy puzzleEconomists at Warwick have found that happiness dips among people living in the wealthiest countries in a study published at Plone One, “A Reassessment of the Relationship between GDP and Life Satisfaction.”

Led by Professor of Economics, Eugenio Pronto at Warwick University, and Dr Aldo Rustichini of the Centre for Cognitive Sciences, Minnesota, the study looked into how happiness, or “life satisfaction” was affected by the rise or fall of a country’s economy.

It found that in the poorest countries, happiness was closely linked to the GDP as people’s life satisfaction increased with their renewed ability to meet their basic needs for food, housing and goods.

In rich countries, however, once income reaches around $36,000, life satisfaction peaks and then appears to dip.

The dip in happiness is caused by a rise of aspirations which, when not met, leads to disappointment and dissatisfaction. In effect, the rise in income creates a less attainable set of “Joneses” for people to keep up with.

Dr Proto said:

As countries get richer, higher levels of GDP lead to higher aspiration. But this aspiration gap – the difference between actual income and the income we would like – eats away at life satisfaction levels. In other words, what we aspire to becomes a moving target and one which moves away faster in the richest countries, causing the dip in happiness we see in our analysis.”

People in countries with a GDP per capita of below $6,700 were 12 per cent less likely to report the highest level of life satisfaction than those in countries with a GDP per capita of around $18,000.

As countries reached $20,400 GDP per capita, the increase in happiness that higher wealth brings became minimal. The probability of reporting the highest level of satisfaction changes by only two per cent between $20,400 and the very highest GDP per capita of $54,000.

This corresponds with the well-known Easterlin Paradox or “happiness-economics” – that the link between life satisfaction and GDP is more or less flat in richer countries. Rather than continuing to increase or flatten as studies have suggested, this recent study shows a drop in life satisfaction once countries go beyond a level of GDP per capita of $36,000.

Data on life satisfaction was sourced from the World Values Survey and GDP figures which, in a new approach to looking at the issue of wealth and happiness, were analysed as quantiles.

By analysing the data in this way, researchers were able to avoid imposing restrictions on the “econometric model” – a statistical model used in economics. This also enabled for a control for country-fixed effects in order to exclude differences due to culture, translation and linguistic issues. Dr Proto adds:

Whether wealth can buy a country’s happiness is a major question for governments. Many policy-makers, including in the UK, are interested in official measures of national well-being. Our new analysis has one very surprising finding which has not been reported before – that life satisfaction appears to dip beyond a certain level of wealth.”

Press release, Warwick : http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/gdphappiness

Plus One Study: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0079358

Image credit: with thanks to Billy Frank Alexander of RGB Free Stock