What happens in your brain when you binge-watch a TV show

Netflix survey found that 73 percent of participants reported positive feelings associated with binge-watching.


Is watching the entire second season of “Stranger Things” on your weekend to-do list? Here’s what you need to know.

Source: What happens in your brain when you binge-watch a TV show

by Danielle Page /

You sit yourself down in front of the TV after a long day at work, and decide to start watching that new show everyone’s been talking about. Cut to midnight and you’ve crushed half a season — and find yourself tempted to stay up to watch just one more episode, even though you know you’ll be paying for it at work the next morning.

It happens to the best of us. Thanks to streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu, we’re granted access to several hundred show options that we can watch all in one sitting — for a monthly fee that shakes out to less than a week’s worth of lattes. What a time to be alive, right?

And we’re taking full advantage of that access. According to a survey done by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American spends around 2.7 hours watching TV per day, which adds up to almost 20 hours per week in total.

361,000 people watched all nine episodes of the second season of ‘Stranger Things’ on the first day it was released.

361,000 people watched all nine episodes of the second season of ‘Stranger Things’ on the first day it was released.

As for the amount of binge watching we’re doing, a Netflix surveyfound that 61 percent of users regularly watch between 2-6 episodes of a show in one sitting. A more recent study found that most Netflix members choose to binge-watch their way through a series versus taking their time — finishing an entire season in one week, on average (shows that fall in the Sci-Fi, horror and thriller categories are the most likely to be binged).

In fact, according to Nielsen, 361,000 people watched all nine episodes of season 2 of ‘Stranger Things,’ on the first day it was released.

Of course, we wouldn’t do it if it didn’t feel good. In fact, the Netflix survey also found that 73 percent of participants reported positive feelings associated with binge-watching. But if you spent last weekend watching season two of “Stranger Things” in its entirety, you may have found yourself feeling exhausted by the end of it — and downright depressed that you’re out of episodes to watch.

A Netflix survey found that 61 percent of users regularly watch between 2-6 episodes of a show in one sitting.

A Netflix survey found that 61 percent of users regularly watch between 2-6 episodes of a show in one sitting.

There are a handful of reasons that binge-watching gives us such a high — and then leaves us emotionally spent on the couch. Here’s a look at what happens to our brain when we settle in for a marathon, and how to watch responsibly.

THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON BINGE WATCHING

When binge watching your favorite show, your brain is continually producing dopamine, and your body experiences a drug-like high.

When binge watching your favorite show, your brain is continually producing dopamine, and your body experiences a drug-like high.

Watching episode after episode of a show feels good — but why is that? Dr. Renee Carr, Psy.D, a clinical psychologist, says it’s due to the chemicals being released in our brain. “When engaged in an activity that’s enjoyable such as binge watching, your brain produces dopamine,” she explains. “This chemical gives the body a natural, internal reward of pleasure that reinforces continued engagement in that activity. It is the brain’s signal that communicates to the body, ‘This feels good. You should keep doing this!’ When binge watching your favorite show, your brain is continually producing dopamine, and your body experiences a drug-like high. You experience a pseudo-addiction to the show because you develop cravings for dopamine.”

According to Dr. Carr, the process we experience while binge watching is the same one that occurs when a drug or other type of addiction begins. “The neuronal pathways that cause heroin and sex addictions are the same as an addiction to binge watching,” Carr explains. “Your body does not discriminate against pleasure. It can become addicted to any activity or substance that consistently produces dopamine.”

Your body does not discriminate against pleasure. It can become addicted to any activity or substance that consistently produces dopamine.

Your body does not discriminate against pleasure. It can become addicted to any activity or substance that consistently produces dopamine.

Spending so much time immersed in the lives of the characters portrayed on a show is also fueling our binge watching experience. “Our brains code all experiences, be it watched on TV, experienced live, read in a book or imagined, as ‘real’ memories,” explains Gayani DeSilva, M.D., a psychiatrist at Laguna Family Health Center in California. “So when watching a TV program, the areas of the brain that are activated are the same as when experiencing a live event. We get drawn into story lines, become attached to characters and truly care about outcomes of conflicts.”

According to Dr. DeSilva, there are a handful of different forms of character involvement that contribute to the bond we form with the characters, which ultimately make us more likely to binge watch a show in its entirety.

“‘Identification’ is when we see a character in a show that we see ourselves in,” she explains. “‘Modern Family,’ for example, offers identification for the individual who is an adoptive parent, a gay husband, the father of a gay couple, the daughter of a father who marries a much younger woman, etc. The show is so popular because of its multiple avenues for identification. ‘Wishful identification,’ is where plots and characters offer opportunity for fantasy and immersion in the world the viewer wishes they lived in (ex. ‘Gossip Girl,’ ‘America’s Next Top Model’). Also, the identification with power, prestige and success makes it pleasurable to keep watching. ‘Parasocial interaction’ is a one-way relationship where the viewer feels a close connection to an actor or character in the TV show.”

If you’ve ever found yourself thinking that you and your favorite character would totally be friends in real life, you’ve likely experienced this type of involvement. Another type of character involvement is “perceived similarity, where we enjoy the experience of ‘I know what that feels like,’ because it’s affirming and familiar, and may also allow the viewer increased self-esteem when seeing qualities valued in another story.” For example, you’re drawn to shows with a strong female lead because you often take on that role at work or in your social groups.

BINGE WATCHING CAN BE A STRESS RELIEVER

The act of binge watching offers us a temporary escape from our day-to-day grind, which can act as a helpful stress management tool, says Dr. John Mayer, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist at Doctor On Demand. “We are all bombarded with stress from everyday living, and with the nature of today’s world where information floods us constantly,” Dr. Mayer says. “It is hard to shut our minds down and tune out the stress and pressures. A binge can work like a steel door that blocks our brains from thinking about those constant stressors that force themselves into our thoughts. Binge watching can set up a great boundary where troubles are kept at bay.”

A binge can work like a steel door that blocks our brains from thinking about those constant stressors that force themselves into our thoughts.

A binge can work like a steel door that blocks our brains from thinking about those constant stressors that force themselves into our thoughts.

Binge watching can also help foster relationships with others who have been watching the same show as you. “It does give you something to talk about with other people,” says Dr. Ariane Machin, Ph.D, clinical psychologist and professor of psychology. “Cue the ‘This Is Us’ phenomenon and feeling left out if you didn’t know what was going on! Binge watching can make us feel a part of a community with those that have also watched it, where we can connect over an in-depth discussion of a show.”

Watching a show that features a character or scenario that ties into your day-to-day routine can also end up having a positive impact on your real life. “Binge watching can be healthy if your favorite character is also a virtual role model for you,” says Carr, “or, if the content of the show gives you exposure to a career you are interested in. Although most characters and scenes are exaggerated for dramatic effect, it can be a good teaching lesson and case study. For example, if a shy person wants to become more assertive, remembering how a strong character on the show behaves can give the shy person a vivid example of how to advocate for herself or try something new. Or, if experiencing a personal crisis, remembering how a favorite character or TV role model solved a problem can give the binge watcher new, creative or bolder solutions.”

THE LET DOWN: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE BINGE IS OVER

Have you ever felt sad after finishing a series? Mayer says that when we finish binge watching a series, we actually mourn the loss. “We often go into a state of depression because of the loss we are experiencing,” he says. “We call this situational depression because it is stimulated by an identifiable, tangible event. Our brain stimulation is lowered (depressed) such as in other forms of depression.”

In a study done by the University of Toledo, 142 out of 408 participants identified themselves as binge-watchers. This group reported higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression than those who were not binge-watchers. But in examining the habits that come with binge-watching, it’s not hard to see why it would start to impact our mental health. For starters, if you’re not doing it with a roommate or partner, binge-watching can quickly become isolating.

When we disconnect from humans and over-connect to TV at the cost of human connection, eventually we will ‘starve to death’ emotionally.

When we disconnect from humans and over-connect to TV at the cost of human connection, eventually we will ‘starve to death’ emotionally.

“When we substitute TV for human relations we disconnect from our human nature and substitute for [the] virtual,” says Dr. Judy Rosenberg, psychologist and founder of the Psychological Healing Center in Sherman Oaks, CA. “We are wired to connect, and when we disconnect from humans and over-connect to TV at the cost of human connection, eventually we will ‘starve to death’ emotionally. Real relationships and the work of life is more difficult, but at the end of the day more enriching, growth producing and connecting.”

If you find yourself choosing a night in with Netflix over seeing friends and family, it’s a sign that this habit is headed into harmful territory. (A word of warning to those of us who decided to stay in and binge watch “Stranger Things” instead of heading to that Halloween party.)

HOW TO BINGE-WATCH RESPONSIBLY

The key to reaping the benefits of binge-watching without suffering from the negative repercussions is to set parameters for the time you spend with your television — which can be tough to do when you’re faced with cliff hangers that might be resolved if you just stay up forone more episode. “In addition to pleasure, we often binge-watch to obtain psychological closure from the previous episode,” says Carr. “However, because each new episode leaves you with more questions, you can engage in healthy binge-watching by setting a predetermined end time for the binge. For example, commit to saying, ‘after three hours, I’m going to stop watching this show for the night.”

If setting a time limit cuts you off at a point in your binge where it’s hard to stop (and makes it too easy to tell yourself just ten more minutes), Carr suggests committing to a set number of episodes at the onset instead. “Try identifying a specific number of episodes to watch, then watching only the first half of the episode you have designated as your stopping point,” she says. “Usually, questions from the previous episode will be answered by this half-way mark and you will have enough psychological closure to feel comfortable turning off the TV.”

Also, make sure that you’re balancing your binge with other activities. “After binge-watching, go out with friends or do something fun,” says Carr. “By creating an additional source of pleasure, you will be less likely to become addicted to or binge watch the show. Increase your physical exercise activity or join an adult athletic league. By increasing your heart rate and stimulating your body, you can give yourself a more effective and longer-term experience of fun and excitement.”

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When Advertisements Become Too Personal

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GuerraGPhoto's/Shutterstock.com

GuerraGPhoto’s/Shutterstock.com

With the proliferation of media channels over the last 20 years, advertisers have taken advantage of marketing technologies combined with data to serve more personalized advertisements to consumers. Personalization is a marketing strategy that delivers specific messages to you by leveraging data analysis and marketing technology    enabling them to target (the ability to identify a specific person or audience). Thus, companies leverage many data sources about you whether obtained directly from you, purchased from data brokers, or passively collected on you (tracking your online behavior). There are advantages to this as a consumer such as advertisement relevance, time savings and product pricing. For example, I don’t like to see the media I consume littered with advertisements on golf equipment or hunting gear, since the products are not of any interest to me. Secondly, I hate it when I have already purchased a product the same product shows up in Facebook, as this is just a waste of my attention. Rather, the marketer should show me something that is at least complimentary to what I have already purchased instead of wasting my time. There is a good reason for optimizing advertising because if targeting were not available companies would need to increase their advertising budgets every time a new media channel presented itself resulting in price increases to consumers. From an advertiser perspective, there is no argument with the return on investment that leveraging data for targeting provides across all channels which is why almost all companies engage in the practice. However, there are times when advertiser personalization attempts cross the line and it recently happened to me.

Last December I had a health matter I needed to address. My doctor recommended I try a supplement that can be only bought online. After trying some samples provided by my doc, I went directly to the company’s website and made the purchase. I never viewed the company’s page nor saw an advertisement for the product on Facebook (i.e. I left no previous online behavior that could be tracked). One day later, a post showed up on my Facebook feed from that same company. Serenol ad screen shot

I immediately yelled “Are You F***ing Kidding Me???” among other things. So dear reader…..you now know I bought a supplement called Serenol which helps alleviate PMS symptoms – hence my use of four letter words above (yes it works). From my perspective this was a complete invasion of my privacy and feels unethical. It may also be against HIPAA laws, or it should be! In the end, what this means, is Serenol, without my permission, disclosed my health condition.  Furthermore, it also begs the question: Now that Facebook has this data on me how will they use it moving forward?

Being from the data integration and marketing technology industry myself I personally have a moderate perspective on the use of data attributes for targeted marketing. I don’t want to see advertisements from companies that are completely irrelevant to me nor do I want to pay increased prices for goods and services, thus I have some comfort with use of my data. However, this scenario violated my personal boundaries, so I downloaded a tracker monitor and followed the data.

Ghostery provides a free mobile browser and search engine plug-in for tracking the trackers, something anyone can access for free.Ghostery Screen Shot

Ghostery shows you what type of trackers are firing on any website that you visit. With this tool I learned there were multiple pixels firing on Serenol’s site, Facebook being one of many.  The two pixels that interested me most were the “Facebook Custom Audiences” and the “Facebook Pixel” trackers. The custom audience pixel enables Serenol (or any other advertiser) to create Facebook Custom Audiences based on their website visitors.

A Facebook Custom Audience is essentially a targeting option created from an advertiser owned customer list, so they can target users on Facebook (Advertiser Help Center, 2018). Facebook Pixel is a small piece of code for websites that allows the site owner AND Facebook to log any Facebook users (Brown, Why Facebook is not telling you everything it knows about you, 2017). Either of these methods would have enabled the survey post I was shown from Serenol. What likely happened is Serenol and Facebook used these tags to conduct surveillance on me without my conscious knowledge and re-targeted me, hence the offending post. Yes – this is technically legal. Why? Because, I mostly likely agreed to this surveillance in the terms of service and privacy policies on each site.  Also, this method of targeting does not provide data back to Serenol who I am on Facebook, only Facebook knows. However, now Facebook has data that associates me with PMS!

Facebook collects information on things you do such as content you share, groups you are part of, things someone may share about you (regardless of whether you granted permission), payment information, the internet connected devices you and your family own and information from third-party partners including advertisers (Data Policy , 2016). They can monitor your mouse movements, track the amount of time you spend on anything and the subject of your photos via machine learning algorithms. Furthermore, when you do upload photos, Facebook scans the image and detects information about that photo such as whether it contains humans, animals, inanimate objects, and potential people you should tag in the picture (Brown, The amount of data facebook collects from your photos will terrify you, 2017). The social media company directly states in their data policy that they use the information they collect to improve their advertising (this means targeting) and then measure such advertising effectiveness (Data Policy , 2016). While Facebook’s data policy states that they do not share personally identifiable information (PII), they do leverage non-personally identifying demographic information that can be used for advertisement targeting purposes provided they adhere to their advertiser guidelines (Data Policy , 2016). This policy is subject to all Facebook companies, including WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Instagram. So that private message you are sending on Messenger isn’t as private as you think, Facebook is collecting data on that content. With Facebook owning 4 of the Top 5 Social Media applications, isn’t this a little creepy?

The next obvious question, is how can this data be used for nefarious purposes? Facebook’s advertiser policies state that an advertiser can’t use targeting options to discriminate against or engage in predatory advertising practices (Advertising Policies, n.d.). While they do withhold some demographics from certain types of advertising like housing, there are other questionable practices for targeting. For example, last year an article appeared in AdAge that called out Facebook, LinkedIn and Google who all allow employment advertising targeting using age as a criteria. Facebook has defended using the demographic despite criticism the practice contributes to ageism in the workforce and is illegal in the actual hiring practices of public companies (Sloane, 2017).

So, can Facebook use data about my PMS for targeting? Will they allow potential employers to use this data? What about health insurance companies? This is a slippery slope indeed. The answer is yes, and no. Facebook recently updated its’ policies and now they prevent advertisers from using targeting attributes such as medical conditions (Perez, 2018). This means that Facebook will not provide demographic selection data in their targeting tools to select or deselect users based on medical conditions. This type of targeting requires using third-party data, meaning that the advertiser is using the data provided by Facebook or other data aggregators to create an audience. However, I did not find anything that prevents companies like Serenol from using first-party data to find me on Facebook. Furthermore, when I went to the Serenol site on February 21st, 2018 (after the Facebook policy update), Ghostery showed that Facebooks’ Pixel and Facebook for Developers along with other pixels and tags from The Trade Desk, Adobe, Google, etc. were all live on the site.

This month’s Harvard Business Review published an article about how consumers react to personalization. The authors ran a series of experiments to understand what causes consumers to object to targeting and found out that we don’t always behave logically when it comes to privacy. People will often share details with complete strangers while keeping that information secret from those where close relationships exist. Furthermore, the nature of the information impacts how we feel about it – for example data on sex, health and finances are much more sensitive. Secondly, the way that data exchanges hands (information flows) matter. They found that sharing data with a company personally (first party sharing) generally feels fine because it is necessary to purchase something or engage with a company. However, when that information is shared without our knowledge (third-party sharing) consumers are reacting in a similar way as if a friend shared a secret or talked behind our backs. While third party sharing of data is legal, the study showed that scenarios where companies obtain information outside the website one interacted with or deduced inferred information about someone from analytics elicits a negative reaction from consumers. The study also found when consumers believe their data has been shared unacceptably, purchase interest substantially declines (John, Kim, & Barasz, 2018). Some of the recommendations from the authors to mitigate backlash from consumers included staying away from sensitive subjects, maintain transparency and provide consumers choice/ the ability to opt out.

I reached out to Michael Becker, Managing Partner at Identity Praxis for his point of view on the subject. Michael is an entrepreneur, academic and industry evangelist who has been engaging and supporting the personal identity economy for over a decade. “People are becoming aware that their personal information has value and are awakening to the fact that its’ misuse is not just annoying, but can lead to material and lasting emotional, economic, and physical harm. They are awaking to the fact that they can enact control over their data. Consumers are starting to use password managers, identity anonymization tools, and tracker management tools [like Ghostery]; for instance, 38% of US adults have adopted ad blockers and this is just the beginning. Executives should take heed that a new class of software and services, personal information management solutions, are coming to the market. These solutions, alongside new regulations (like the EU GDPR), give individuals, at scale, the power to determine what information about them is shared, who has access to it, when it can be used, and on what terms. In other words, the core terms of business may change in the very near future from people having to agree to the businesses terms of service to business having to agree to the individuals’ terms of access.”

In the United States the approach to regulations for personal data collection and use is such that if the action from the business or technology isn’t expressly forbidden, then companies can do it regardless of whether it is ethical or not. Unfortunately, regulations do not necessarily keep up with the pace of innovation in the world of data collection. In Europe the approach to data privacy is such that unless a personal data collection practice and its use is explicitly called out as legal then companies CANNOT do it. There are some actions you can take to manage passive data collection; however, this list is not meant to be exhaustive:

  • Use Brave Browser: This browser allows you to block ads and trackers to sites that you visit. Brave claims it will increase download speeds, save you money on your mobile device data since you don’t have to load ads and protect your information.
  • Ghostery permits you to allow what trackers are accepted by site that you visit, or block trackers entirely.
  • Add a script blocker plug-in to your browser such as No-script. No-script has a white list of trustworthy websites and it enables you to choose which sites you want to allow scripts.
  • Review what permissions to track your data on your mobile device and limit it. Do you really want Apple sharing your contact list and calendar with other applications? Do all applications need access to your fitness and activity data? You can find helpful instructions on how for iPhone here or for Android here.

Regardless of what is legal or illegal, comfort levels with how our personal data is used varies by individual. When you think about it, there is similarity to the debate in the 60’s on what constituted obscenity. When we find use of our personal data offensive we will likely say “I’ll know it when I see it”.

References:

Advertiser Help Center. (2018). Retrieved from Facebook Business: https://www.facebook.com/business/help/610516375684216

Advertising Policies. (n.d.). Retrieved February 20, 2018, from Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/policies/ads/

Brown, A. (2017, January 6). The qmount of data facebook collects from your photos will terrify you. Retrieved February 20, 2018, from Express: https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/science-technology/751009/Facebook-Scan-Photos-Data-Collection

Brown, A. (2017, January 2). Why facebook is not telling you everything it knows about you. Retrieved February 2018, 2018, from Express: https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/science-technology/748956/Facebook-Login-How-Much-Data-Know

Data Policy . (2016, September 29). Retrieved from Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/full_data_use_policy

John, L. K., Kim, T., & Barasz, K. (2018, February). Ads that don’t overstep. Harvard Business Review, pp. 62-69.

Perez, S. (2018, February 8). Facebook updates its ad policies and tools to protect against discriminatory practices. Retrieved from Techcrunch: https://techcrunch.com/2017/02/08/facebook-updates-its-ad-policies-and-tools-to-protect-against-discriminatory-practices/

Sloane, G. (2017, December 21). Facebook defends targeting job ads based on age. Retrieved from Ad Age: http://adage.com/article/digital/facebook-defends-targeting-job-ads-based-age/311726/

 

 

 

 

 

 

A new study shows that students learn way more effectively from print textbooks than screens

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Students told researchers they preferred and performed better when reading on screens. But their actual performance tended to suffer.

Source: A new study shows that students learn way more effectively from print textbooks than screens

Today’s students see themselves as digital natives, the first generation to grow up surrounded by technology like smartphones, tablets and e-readers.

Teachers, parents and policymakers certainly acknowledge the growing influence of technology and have responded in kind. We’ve seen more investment in classroom technologies, with students now equipped with school-issued iPads and access to e-textbooks.

In 2009, California passed a law requiring that all college textbooks be available in electronic form by 2020; in 2011, Florida lawmakers passed legislation requiring public schools to convert their textbooks to digital versions.

Given this trend, teachers, students, parents and policymakers might assume that students’ familiarity and preference for technology translates into better learning outcomes. But we’ve found that’s not necessarily true.

As researchers in learning and text comprehension, our recent work has focused on the differences between reading print and digital media. While new forms of classroom technology like digital textbooks are more accessible and portable, it would be wrong to assume that students will automatically be better served by digital reading simply because they prefer it.

Speed – at a cost

Our work has revealed a significant discrepancy. Students said they preferred and performed better when reading on screens. But their actual performance tended to suffer.

For example, from our review of research done since 1992, we found that students were able to better comprehend information in print for texts that were more than a page in length. This appears to be related to the disruptive effect that scrolling has on comprehension. We were also surprised to learn that few researchers tested different levels of comprehension or documented reading time in their studies of printed and digital texts.

To explore these patterns further, we conducted three studies that explored college students’ ability to comprehend information on paper and from screens.

Students first rated their medium preferences. After reading two passages, one online and one in print, these students then completed three tasks: Describe the main idea of the texts, list key points covered in the readings and provide any other relevant content they could recall. When they were done, we asked them to judge their comprehension performance.

Across the studies, the texts differed in length, and we collected varying data (e.g., reading time). Nonetheless, some key findings emerged that shed new light on the differences between reading printed and digital content:

  • Students overwhelming preferred to read digitally.
  • Reading was significantly faster online than in print.
  • Students judged their comprehension as better online than in print.
  • Paradoxically, overall comprehension was better for print versus digital reading.
  • The medium didn’t matter for general questions (like understanding the main idea of the text).
  • But when it came to specific questions, comprehension was significantly better when participants read printed texts.

studentsGetty Images/Sean Gallup

Placing print in perspective

From these findings, there are some lessons that can be conveyed to policymakers, teachers, parents and students about print’s place in an increasingly digital world.

1. Consider the purpose

We all read for many reasons. Sometimes we’re looking for an answer to a very specific question. Other times, we want to browse a newspaper for today’s headlines.

As we’re about to pick up an article or text in a printed or digital format, we should keep in mind why we’re reading. There’s likely to be a difference in which medium works best for which purpose.

In other words, there’s no “one medium fits all” approach.

2. Analyze the task

One of the most consistent findings from our research is that, for some tasks, medium doesn’t seem to matter. If all students are being asked to do is to understand and remember the big idea or gist of what they’re reading, there’s no benefit in selecting one medium over another.

But when the reading assignment demands more engagement or deeper comprehension, students may be better off reading print. Teachers could make students aware that their ability to comprehend the assignment may be influenced by the medium they choose. This awareness could lessen the discrepancy we witnessed in students’ judgments of their performance vis-à-vis how they actually performed.

Classroom Students Teacher iPadElementary school children use electronic tablets on the first day of class in the new school year in Nice, September 3, 2013.REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

3. Slow it down

In our third experiment, we were able to create meaningful profiles of college students based on the way they read and comprehended from printed and digital texts.

Among those profiles, we found a select group of undergraduates who actually comprehended better when they moved from print to digital. What distinguished this atypical group was that they actually read slower when the text was on the computer than when it was in a book. In other words, they didn’t take the ease of engaging with the digital text for granted. Using this select group as a model, students could possibly be taught or directed to fight the tendency to glide through online texts.

4. Something that can’t be measured

There may be economic and environmental reasons to go paperless. But there’s clearly something important that would be lost with print’s demise.

In our academic lives, we have books and articles that we regularly return to. The dog-eared pages of these treasured readings contain lines of text etched with questions or reflections. It’s difficult to imagine a similar level of engagement with a digital text. There should probably always be a place for print in students’ academic lives – no matter how technologically savvy they become.

Of course, we realize that the march toward online reading will continue unabated. And we don’t want to downplay the many conveniences of online texts, which include breadth and speed of access.

Rather, our goal is simply to remind today’s digital natives – and those who shape their educational experiences – that there are significant costs and consequences to discounting the printed word’s value for learning and academic development.

Something universal occurs in the brain when it processes stories, regardless of language

 

New brain research shows that reading stories generates activity in the same regions of the brain for speakers of three different languages.

 

English, Farsi and Mandarin readers use the same parts of the brain to decode the deeper meaning of what they’re reading.
Credit: Morteza Dehghani, et a

 

Source: Something universal occurs in the brain when it processes stories, regardless of language

Date: October 5, 2017

Source: University of Southern California

New brain research by USC scientists shows that reading stories is a universal experience that may result in people feeling greater empathy for each other, regardless of cultural origins and differences.

And in what appears to be a first for neuroscience, USC researchers have found patterns of brain activation when people find meaning in stories, regardless of their language. Using functional MRI, the scientists mapped brain responses to narratives in three different languages — English, Farsi and Mandarin Chinese.

The USC study opens up the possibility that exposure to narrative storytelling can have a widespread effect on triggering better self-awareness and empathy for others, regardless of the language or origin of the person being exposed to it.

“Even given these fundamental differences in language, which can be read in a different direction or contain a completely different alphabet altogether, there is something universal about what occurs in the brain at the point when we are processing narratives,” said Morteza Dehghani, the study’s lead author and a researcher at the Brain and Creativity Institute at USC.

Dehghani is also an assistant professor of psychology at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, and an assistant professor of computer science at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

The study was published on Sept. 20 in the journal Human Brain Mapping.

Making sense of 20 million personal anecdotes

The researchers sorted through more than 20 million blog posts of personal stories using software developed at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies. The posts were narrowed down to 40 stories about personal topics such as divorce or telling a lie.

They were then translated into Mandarin Chinese and Farsi, and read by a total of 90 American, Chinese and Iranian participants in their native language while their brains were scanned by MRI. The participants also answered general questions about the stories while being scanned.

Using state-of-the-art machine learning and text-analysis techniques, and an analysis involving over 44 billion classifications, the researchers were able to “reverse engineer” the data from these brain scans to determine the story the reader was processing in each of the three languages. In effect, the neuroscientists were able to read the participants’ minds as they were reading.

The brain is not resting

In the case of each language, reading each story resulted in unique patterns of activations in the “default mode network” of the brain. This network engages interconnected brain regions such as the medial prefrontal cortex, the posterior cingulate cortex, the inferior parietal lobe, the lateral temporal cortex and hippocampal formation.

The default mode network was originally thought to be a sort of autopilot for the brain when it was at rest and shown only to be active when someone is not engaged in externally directed thinking. Continued studies, including this one, suggest that the default mode network actually is working behind the scenes while the mind is ostensibly at rest to continually find meaning in narrative, serving an autobiographical memory retrieval function that influences our cognition related to the past, the future, ourselves and our relationship to others.

“One of the biggest mysteries of neuroscience is how we create meaning out of the world. Stories are deep-rooted in the core of our nature and help us create this meaning,” said Jonas Kaplan, corresponding author at the Brain and Creativity Institute and an assistant professor of psychology at USC Dornsife.

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Southern California. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Morteza Dehghani, Reihane Boghrati, Kingson Man, Joe Hoover, Sarah I. Gimbel, Ashish Vaswani, Jason D. Zevin, Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, Andrew S. Gordon, Antonio Damasio, Jonas T. Kaplan. Decoding the neural representation of story meanings across languages. Human Brain Mapping, 2017; DOI: 10.1002/hbm.23814

 

What is Your Phone Doing to Your Relationships?

New research is exploring how phubbing—ignoring someone in favor of our mobile phone—hurts our relationships, and what we can do about it. #relationships #technology

Source: What is Your Phone Doing to Your Relationships?

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Phubbing is the practice of snubbing others in favor of our mobile phones. We’ve all been there, as either victim or perpetrator. We may no longer even notice when we’ve been phubbed (or are phubbing), it has become such a normal part of life. However, research studies are revealing the profound impact phubbing can have on our relationships and well-being.

There’s an irony in phubbing. When we’re staring at our phones, we’re often connecting with someone on social media or through texting. Sometimes, we’re flipping through our pictures the way we once turned the pages of photo albums, remembering moments with people we love. Unfortunately, however, this can severely disrupt our actual, present-moment, in-person relationships, which also tend to be our most important ones.

The research shows that phubbing isn’t harmless—but the studies to date also point the way to a healthier relationship with our phones and with each other.

What phubbing does to us

According to their study of 145 adults, phubbing decreases marital satisfaction, in part because it leads to conflict over phone use. The scientists found that phubbing, by lowering marital satisfaction, affected a partner’s depression and satisfaction with life. A follow-up study by Chinese scientists assessed 243 married adults with similar results: Partner phubbing, because it was associated with lower marital satisfaction, contributed to greater feelings of depression. In a study poignantly titled, “My life has become a major distraction from my cell phone,” Meredith David and James Roberts suggest that phubbing can lead to a decline in one of the most important relationships we can have as an adult: the one with our life partner.

Phubbing also shapes our casual friendships. Not surprisingly to anyone who has been phubbed, phone users are generally seen as less polite and attentive. Let’s not forget that we are extremely attuned to people. When someone’s eyes wander, we intuitively know what brain studies also show: The mind is wandering. We feel unheard, disrespected, disregarded.

A set of studies actually showed that just having a phone out and present during a conversation (say, on the table between you) interferes with your sense of connection to the other person, the feelings of closeness experienced, and the quality of the conversation. This phenomenon is especially the case during meaningful conversations—you lose the opportunity for true and authentic connection to another person, the core tenet of any friendship or relationship.

In fact, many of the problems with mobile interaction relate to distraction from the physical presence of other people. According to these studies, conversations with no smartphones present are rated as significantly higher-quality than those with smartphones around, regardless of people’s age, ethnicity, gender, or mood. We feel more empathy when smartphones are put away.

This makes sense. When we are on our phones, we are not looking at other people and not reading their facial expressions (tears in their eyes, frowns, smiles). We don’t hear the nuances in their tone of voice (was it shaky with anxiety?), or notice their body posture (slumped and sad? or excited and enthusiastic?).

No wonder phubbing harms relationships.

The way of the phubbed

What do “phubbed” people tend do?

According to a study published in March of this year, they themselves start to turn to social media. Presumably, they do so to seek inclusion. They may turn to their cell phone to distract themselves from the very painful feelings of being socially neglected. We know from brain-imaging research that being excluded registers as actual physical pain in the brain. Phubbed people in turn become more likely to attach themselves to their phones in unhealthy ways, thereby increasing their own feelings of stress and depression.

A Facebook study shows that how we interact on Facebook affects whether it makes us feel good or bad. When we use social media just to passively view others’ posts, our happiness decreases. Another study showed that social media actually makes us more lonely.

“It is ironic that cell phones, originally designed as a communication tool, may actually hinder rather than foster interpersonal connectedness,” write David and Roberts in their study “Phubbed and Alone.” Their results suggest the creation of a vicious circle: A phubbed individual turns to social media and their compulsive behavior presumably leads them to phub others—perpetuating and normalizing the practice and problem of “phubbing.”

“It is ironic that cell phones, originally designed as a communication tool, may actually hinder rather than foster interpersonal connectedness”

―Meredith David and James Roberts

Why do people get into the phubbing habit in the first place? Not surprisingly, fear of missing out and lack of self-control predict phubbing. However, the most important predictor is addiction—to social media, to the cell phone, and to the Internet. Internet addiction has similar brain correlates to physiological forms like addiction to heroine and other recreational drugs. The impact of this addiction is particularly worrisome for children whose brain and social skills are still under development.

Nicholas Kardaras, former Stony Brook Medicine clinical professor and author of Glow Kids, goes so far as to liken screen time to digital cocaine. Consider this: The urge to check social media is stronger than the urge for sex, according to research by Chicago University’s Wilhelm Hoffman.

These findings come as no surprise—decades of research have shown that our greatest need after food and shelter is for positive social connections with other people. We are profoundly social people for whom connection and a sense of belonging are crucial for health and happiness. (In fact, lack thereof is worse for you than smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity.) So, we err sometimes. We look for connection on social media at the cost of face-to-face opportunities for true intimacy.

The urge to check social media might be stronger than the urge for sex.

How to stop phubbing people

To prevent phubbing, awareness is the only solution. Know that what drives you and others is to connect and to belong. While you may not be able to control the behavior of others, you yourself have opportunities to model something different.

Research by Barbara Fredrickson, beautifully described in her book Love 2.0, suggests that intimacy happens in micro-moments: talking over breakfast, the exchange with the UPS guy, the smile of a child. The key is to be present and mindful. A revealing study showed that we are happiest when we are present, no matter what we are doing. Can we be present with the person in front of us right now, no matter who it is?

Studies by Paula Niedenthal reveal that the most essential and intimate form of connection is eye contact. Yet social media is primarily verbal. Research conducted by scientists like the GGSC’s Dacher Keltner and others have shown that posture and the most minute facial expressions (the tightening of our lips, the crow’s feet of smiling eyes, upturned eyebrows in sympathy or apology) communicate more than our words.

Most importantly, they are at the root of empathy—the ability to sense what another person is feeling—which is so critical to authentic human connection. Research shows that altruism and compassion also make us happier and healthier, and can even lengthen our lives. True connection thrives on presence, openness, observation, compassion, and, as Brené Brown has so beautifully shared in her TED talk and her bestselling book Daring Greatly, vulnerability. It takes courage to connect with another person authentically, yet it is also the key to fulfillment.

What to do if you are phubbed

What if you are phubbed? Patience and compassion are key here. Understand that the phubber is probably not doing it with malicious intent, but rather is following an impulse (sometimes irresistible) to connect. Just like you or I, their goal is not to exclude. To the contrary, they are looking for a feeling of inclusion. After all, a telling sociological study shows that loneliness is rising at an alarming rate in our society.

What’s more, age and gender play a role in people’s reactions to phubbing. According to studies, older participants and women advocate for more restricted phone use in most social situations. Men differ from women in that they viewed phone calls as more appropriate in virtually all environments including—and this is quite shocking—intimate settings. Similarly, in classrooms, male students find phubbing far less disturbing than their female counterparts.

Perhaps even worse than disconnecting from others, however, Internet addiction and phubbing disconnect us from ourselves. Plunged into a virtual world, we hunch over a screen, strain our eyes unnecessarily, and tune out completely from our own needs—for sleep, exercise, even food. A disturbing study indicates that for every minute we spend online for leisure, we’re not just compromising our relationships, we are also losing precious self-care time (e.g., sleep, household activities) and productivity.

So, the next time you’re with another human and you feel tempted to pull out your phone—stop. Put it away. Look them in the eyes, and listen to what they have to say. Do it for them, do it for yourself, do it to make the world a better place.

 

This article was adapted from Greater Good, the online magazine of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, one of Mindful’s partners. View the original article.

 

Media Psych Effects Of Logo Design

LAWRENCE —visual logo for their brand, believing that consumers apply a logo’s meaning to its accompanying brand. Source: Marketing scholar investigates psychological effects of logo design Consumer behavior literature supports this assumption by documenting how a logo’s meaning can affect attitudes toward and beliefs about associated brands. New research by a University of Kansas marketing […]

via Marketing scholar investigates psychological effects of logo design — consumer psychology research

The Stickiness of Misinformation

Illustration by Sébastien Thibault

Even the most ridiculous rumors can cling in our minds—despite what the proof says. Sharon Begley tells us why.

#mindfulmagazineoct15     #mindfulnessoutintheworld

Source: The Stickiness of Misinformation

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Isn’t it scandalous that Barack Obama, whose health-care reform law established death panels, is a Muslim who was born in Kenya? And isn’t it scary that all those scientific studies have shown that childhood vaccines can cause autism?

You might not believe these falsehoods, but if so, you’re a minority. In a 2015 study, political scientist Adam Berinsky of MIT asked thousands of US voters to rate the truth or falsity of seven myths, such as that Obama is a Muslim or that vote fraud in Ohio swung the 2004 presidential election to George W. Bush. On average, people believed about two of them, he found. “Some people believe a lot of crazy things,” Berinsky said, “but mostly it’s a lot of people believing a few crazy things.”

Such credulity is bad enough in terms of personal decision-making, as when it causes parents to opt out of childhood vaccines. The notion that a democracy’s electoral decisions are partly shaped by outright lies and slanted rumors must have George Orwell chortling smugly in his grave. Even worse is that misinformation can be “sticky,” or impervious to correction. But the reasons we believe misinformation and resist efforts to debunk it shed some not-very-flattering light on the workings of the human mind.

Start at the beginning, when we first hear a claim or rumor. People “proceed on the assumption that speakers try to be truthful,” psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky of England’s University of Bristol and colleagues explained in Psychological Science in the Public Interest. “Some research has even suggested that to comprehend a statement, people must at least temporarily accept it as true.”

That’s because compared to assuming the truth of a claim, assessing its plausibility is cognitively more demanding. It requires paying careful attention, marshaling remembered facts, and comparing what we just heard to what we (think we) know and remember. With the exceptions of assertions from a messenger we reflexively mistrust (as in, “I won’t believe anything Fox News says”) or involving something we know like our own name, our cognitive reflex is that what we’re hearing is likely true. The mental deck is stacked in favor of belief, not skepticism.

In addition, people are generally more likely to accept claims that are consistent with what they already believe. In what’s called “motivated reasoning,” we process new information through the filter of our preexisting worldview. Think of the process as akin to filing papers. If a new document arrives and fits the contents of an existing folder, it’s much easier to file—remember—than if it doesn’t. Similarly, if many Americans had not already been primed with the idea that Obama is an outsider and a threat to “people like them,” the birthers and death-panel assertions would not have gained the traction they did.

So now we have widely-believed falsehoods. Let’s debunk them.

MIT’s Berinsky tried. In a 2015 study, he asked nearly 2,000 US voters whether the 2010 Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) established death panels that would decide whether treatment should be withdrawn from elderly patients. Among voters who said they follow political news, 57% said the death-panel claim was untrue, Berinsky reported in the British Journal of Political Science.

Fifty-seven percent might seem like cause to despair (“only 57% knew the truth?!”). But wait, it got worse. When Berinsky showed people information from nonpartisan sources such as the American Medical Association correcting the death-panel claim, it made little difference in the ranks of believers. “Rumors acquire their power through familiarity,” he said. “Merely repeating a rumor”—including to debunk it—“increases its strength” because our fallible brains conflate familiarity (“I’ve heard that before”) with veracity (“…so it must be true”). As a result, “confronting citizens with the truth can sometimes backfire and reinforce existing misperceptions.”

His findings reinforced something scientists had seen before: the “fluency effect.” The term refers to the fact that people judge the accuracy of information by how easy it is to recall or process. The more we hear something, the more familiar we are with it, so the more likely we are to accept it as true. That’s why a “myths vs. facts” approach to correcting beliefs about, say, vaccinations often fail. Right after reading such correctives, many people accept that something they believed to be true (that the flu vaccine can cause the flu, to take an example from one recent study) isn’t. But the effect fades.

Just hours later, people believe the myth as strongly as ever, studies find. Repeating false information, even in a context of “this is wrong,” makes it more familiar. Familiarity = fluency, and fluency = veracity. The Internet, of course, has exponentially increased the amount of misinformation available to us all, which means that we are “fluent” in evermore fallacious rumors and claims.

People judge the accuracy of information by how easy it is to recall or process. The more we hear something, the more familiar we are with it, so the more likely we are to accept it as true—even if we’re told it isn’t.

Debunking faces another hurdle: If misinformation fits with our worldview, then obviously the debunking clashes with that view. Earlier studies have shown that when self-described political conservatives were shown information that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) at the time of the 2003 invasion, they were more likely to believe Iraq had those weapons. Challenging a core conservative belief—that the invasion was justified on those grounds, that the George W. Bush administration was correct in claiming those weapons existed—caused them to double down on their beliefs. It is harder to accept that the report of WMDs in Iraq was false if one supported the 2003 invasion and the president who ordered it. WMD debunking worked, correcting erroneous beliefs, only among opponents of the invasion and others whose political beliefs meshed with the retraction, a 2010 study found.

Now, to switch presidents, relinquishing belief in Obamacare’s death panels challenges the mental model of the president as a nefarious schemer who hates People Like Me. If that’s my cognitive model, then removing the fact (sic) of death panels weakens it. Challenging my mental model makes me have to pause and think, wait, which negative rumors about Obama are correct and which are myths? Easier to believe they’re all true.

Misinformation is sticky because evicting it from our belief system requires cognitive effort. Remember the situation: Our mind holds an assertion that likely went down easy, cognitively speaking; we assumed the veracity of the source and fluently easily slotted it into our mental worldview. Now here comes contrary information. It makes us feel cognitively uneasy and requires more mental processing power to absorb. That’s the very definition of non-fluent: the information does not flow easily into our consciousness or memory.

All is not lost, however. In Berinsky’s death-panels study, he followed the AMA debunking with something quite different: quotes from a Republican senator slamming the rumors as a pack of lies. Now 69% agreed it was a fabrication—a significant uptick—with more disbelievers among both Democrats and Republicans. When an “unlikely source” refutes a rumor, Berinsky explained, and the debunker’s debunking runs contrary to its interests (a Republican defending Obamacare?!), “it can increase citizens’ willingness to reject rumors.”

If the most effective way to debunk false rumors is to get a politician to speak against his or her own interests…well, I leave it to you, reader, to decide if, in our hyperpartisan world, this is more likely to happen than pigs flying.

Sharon Begley is a senior science writer with The Boston Globe Media Group, author of Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain, and coauthor with Richard Davidson of The Emotional Life of Your Brain. She writes a regular column for Mindful magazine called Brain Science.

Smart Phone, Lazy Brain

Illustration by Edmon Haro

We still call them “phones,” but they are seldom used for talking. They have become like a substitute for memory—and other brain functions. Is that good for us in the long run?

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Source: Smart Phone, Lazy Brain

You probably know the Google Effect: the first rigorous finding in the booming research into how digital technology affects cognition. It’s also known as digital amnesia, and it works like this: When we know where to find a piece of information, and when it takes little effort to do so, we are less likely to remember that information. First discovered by psychologist Betsy Sparrow of Columbia University and her colleagues, the Google Effect causes our brains to take a pass on retaining or recalling facts such as “an ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain” (an example Sparrow used) when we know they are only a few keystrokes away.

“Because search engines are continually available to us, we may often be in a state of not feeling we need to encode the information internally,” Sparrow explained in her 2011 paper. “When we need it, we will look it up.” Storing information requires mental effort—that’s why we study before exams and cram for presentations—so unless we feel the need to encode something into a memory, we don’t try. Result: Our recollection of ostrich anatomy, and much else, dissipates like foam on a cappuccino.

It’s tempting to leap from the Google Effect to dystopian visions of empty-headed dolts who can’t remember even the route home (thanks a lot, GPS), let alone key events of history (cue Santayana’s hypothesis that those who can’t remember history are doomed to repeat it). But while the short-term effects of digital tech on what we remember and how we think are real, the long-term consequences are unknown; the technology is simply too new for scientists to have figured it out.

People spend an average of 3 to 5 minutes at their computer working on the task at hand before switching to Facebook or other enticing websites.

Before we hit the panic button, it’s worth reminding ourselves that we have been this way before. Plato, for instance, bemoaned the spread of writing, warning that it would decimate people’s ability to remember (why make the effort to encode information in your cortex when you can just consult your handy papyrus?). On the other hand, while writing did not trigger a cognitive apocalypse, scientists are finding more and more evidence that smartphones and internet use are affecting cognition already.

The Google Effect? We’ve probably all experienced it. “Sometimes I spend a few minutes trying hard to remember some fact”—like whether a famous person is alive or dead, or what actor was in a particular movie—“and if I can retrieve it from my memory, it’s there when I try to remember it two, five, seven days later,” said psychologist Larry Rosen, professor emeritus at California State University, Dominguez Hills, who researches the cognitive effects of digital technology. “But if I look it up, I forget it very quickly. If youcan ask your device any question, you do ask your device any question” rather than trying to remember the answer or doing the mental gymnastics to, say, convert Celsius into Fahrenheit.

“Doing that is profoundly impactful,” Rosen said. “It affects your memory as well as your strategy for retrieving memories.” That’s because memories’ physical embodiment in the brain is essentially a long daisy chain of neurons, adding up to something like architectI.M. Pei is alive or swirling water is called an eddy. Whenever we mentally march down that chain we strengthen the synapses connecting one neuron to the next. The very act of retrieving a memory therefore makes it easier to recall next time around. If we succumb to the LMGTFY (let me Google that for you) bait, which has become ridiculously easy with smartphones, that doesn’t happen.

To which the digital native might say, so what? I can still Google whatever I need, whenever I need it. Unfortunately, when facts are no longer accessible to our conscious mind, but only look-up-able, creativity suffers. New ideas come from novel combinations of disparate, seemingly unrelated elements. Just as having many kinds of Legos lets you build more imaginative structures, the more elements—facts—knocking around in your brain the more possible combinations there are, and the more chances for a creative idea or invention. Off-loading more and more knowledge to the internet therefore threatens the very foundations of creativity.

Besides letting us outsource memory, smartphones let us avoid activities that many people find difficult, boring, or even painful: daydreaming, introspecting, thinking through problems. Those are all so aversive, it seems, that nearly half of people in a 2014 experiment whose smartphones were briefly taken away preferred receiving electric shocks than being alone with their thoughts. Yet surely our mental lives are the poorer every time we check Facebook or play Candy Crush instead of daydream.

But why shouldn’t we open the app? The appeal is undeniable. We each have downloaded an average of nearly 30 mobile apps, and spend 87 hours per month internet browsing via smartphone, according to digital marketing company Smart Insights. As a result, distractions are just a click away—and we’re really, really bad at resisting distractions. Our brains evolved to love novelty (maybe human ancestors who were attracted to new environments won the “survival of the fittest” battle), so we flit among different apps and websites.

As a result, people spend an average of just three to five minutes at their computer working on the task at hand before switching to Facebook or another enticing website or, with phone beside them, a mobile app. The most pernicious effect of the frenetic, compulsive task switching that smartphones facilitate is to impede the achievement of goals, even small everyday ones. “You can’t reach any complex goal in three minutes,” Rosen said. “There have always been distractions, but while giving in used to require effort, like getting up and making a sandwich, now the distraction is right there on your screen.”

The mere existence of distractions is harmful because resisting distractions that we see out of the corner of our eye (that Twitter app sitting right there on our iPhone screen) takes effort. Using fMRI to measure brain activity, neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley of the University of California, San Francisco, found that when people try to ignore distractions it requires significant mental resources. Signals from the prefrontal cortex race down to the visual cortex, suppressing neuronal activity and thereby filtering out what the brain’s higher-order cognitive regions have deemed irrelevant. So far, so good.

The problem is that the same prefrontal regions are also required for judgment, attention, problem solving, weighing options, and working memory, all of which are required to accomplish a goal. Our brains have limited capacity to do all that. If the prefrontal cortex is mightily resisting distractions, it isn’t hunkering down to finish the term paper, monthly progress report, sales projections, or other goal it’s supposed to be working toward. “We are all cruising along on a superhighway of interference” produced by the ubiquity of digital technology, Gazzaley and Rosen wrote in their 2016 book The Distracted Mind. That impedes our ability to accomplish everyday goals, to say nothing of the grander ones that are built on the smaller ones.

The constant competition for our attention from all the goodies on our phone and other screens means that we engage in what a Microsoft scientist called “continuous partial attention.” We just don’t get our minds deeply into any one task or topic. Will that have consequences for how intelligent, creative, clever, and thoughtful we are? “It’s too soon to know,” Rosen said, “but there is a big experiment going on, and we are the lab rats.”

Tech Invasion LMGTFY

“Let me Google that for you” may be some of the most damaging words for our brain. Psychologists have theorized that the “Google Effect” causes our memories to weaken due merely to the fact that we know we can look something up, which means we don’t keep pounding away at the pathways that strengthen memory. Meanwhile, research suggests that relying on GPS weakens our age-old ability to navigate our surroundings. And to top it all off, the access to novel info popping up on our phone means that, according to Deloitte, people in the US check their phones an average of 46 times per day—which is more than a little disruptive.

This article appeared in the August 2017 issue of Mindful magazine.

People with Loads of Facebook Friends Share an Interesting Trait, Says Study

Source: People with Loads of Facebook Friends Share an Interesting Trait, Says Study

Social media is undoubtedly a large part of most people`s lives these days, with an average person spending about 135 minutes daily on social media.  This is more than two hours a day! Statistics reveal that teens spend up to nine hours daily on social media. With this in mind, we cannot help it but ask what draws people to spend so much of their time on social media. Well, a recent study tackled certain aspects of this issue.

Motivations for Social Media Use

The study, done by Ozimek and colleagues, came up with three motives for social media use.  They included:

  • Self-presentation, or the need to present yourself and life as positively as possible (to both yourself and others)
  • Social interaction and the need to belong (staying in touch with friends and family members)
  • Social comparison

Although there might be more reasons than the ones outlined above, most of them stem from one of the three. For instance, if you tend to scroll back through your feed to remind yourself of some of the things you have posted earlier,  self-presentation does matter to you. Regardless of your motivation for social media use, it is important to be aware of both the positive and negative effects it has on your wellbeing.

The researchers found that many people use social media in order to obtain materialistic goals and wondered whether materialism could be yet another motivation for social media use.

Materialism and Social Media

A recent study suggested that people having loads of Facebook friends are more materialist than those with fewer Facebook friends.  “Materialistic people use Facebook more frequently because they tend to objectify their Facebook friends – they acquire Facebook friends to increase their possessions,” concluded the study’s researcher, Phillip Ozimek.  The study involved use of a questionnaire to measure how much people actually compare themselves to others and their materialistic goals.

This falls in line with a previous study on materialism, which found that materialists collect things that they can show publicly, it is not about having them.  And, Facebook is the ideal place for a materialist to display their items.  In addition, there is yet another aspect of materialism –objectification- where materialists look on other people as objects. This is clearly seen in social media, where users tends to place quite a high value on the number of friends.

“More generally, we suggest that materialists have a tendency to view and treat non-material events (like friendships) as a possession or as means to attain their materialistic goals, the Ozimek study states.” This can be seen con job networking sites such as LinkedIn.

The Effects of Materialism

First and foremost, materialists often neglect the emotions of those they objectify, which can in turn impact interpersonal relationships.  When a person feels devalued, they disconnect from the person.

Secondly, materialism could lead to emotional health problems too. When material items are the key to value, their removal might cause crisis or any other form of stress. If a certain person unfriends you, you can swap them for another. But, if a lot of people do the same, you are likely to question your own value, aren’t you?

Sources:

https://www.sciencealert.com/materialists-have-more-facebook-friends-treat-them-as-possessions

http://online.rutgers.edu/resources/infographics/social-media-and-well-being/?program=msw

 

Why We Miss Vinyl Records

Image result for vinyl records pic

Source: Why We Miss Vinyl Records

By Josef Lorenzo

It can be a full-time hobby to keep up with technology as it evolves. Every year, I find myself donating or selling my favorite gadgets as they become obsolete. However, there’s one ancient technology that I’ve been buying more than selling and that’s vinyl. And I’m not alone. Vinyl record sales hit a 28-year high in 2016, according to Fortune Magazine.

Raoul Benavides, owner of Flashlight Vinyl, explains why he was able to open a record store in 2016, and why we miss listening to vinyl records.