We like to think of ourselves as rational animals swayed by good reasoning and solid evidence. But in reality, most people find emotional connection far more compelling than facts. And emotional connection doesn’t live in the world of science and data; it lives in storytelling.
As much as it pains me to say this as a scientist, your communication is likely to be more influential if you spend less time describing evidence and more time crafting a relatable narrative.
A psychotherapist recently asked me a question that stuck in my mind: “Unhappy thoughts ruin a good mood all the time, so in the same way, why can’t you fix a bad mood by thinking of happy thoughts?”
When you’re happy or proud of something, it’s easy to put a stop to it by thinking of an anxiety or irritation. But when you’re sad or anxious, “thinking happy thoughts” just seems fake and futile. Why this asymmetry?
“Creativity” may be one of the most widely used and least understood words in the English language. Whenever I try to define it — or whenever I ask someone else to define it — it never quite feels right.
But the tide is shifting, and research is slowly revealing the creative process and developing better ways of measuring it. Here’s a look at some of that evolving evidence along with a link to a fascinating new test that quickly tells you how creative you are.
Creativity is a special kind of problem-solving. You don’t need it to solve problems with…
One of the most self-defeating things we do is compare ourselves to other people. Are we making as much money? Do we have as many friends? Is our lifestyle as glamorous?
The answer to those questions rarely makes us happy because we’re biased toward being too hard on ourselves. We choose to compare ourselves exclusively with people who are one step ahead, and we usually focus on the dimensions that make us feel insecure. In other words, we rig the game so that we always lose.
Phrenology — a popular pseudoscience in the 19th century — suggested you could understand a person’s cognitive traits by measuring specific areas of their skull. Although most of it was bogus, it did get one thing right: Different brain areas are specialized for different functions.
This functional specialization reveals a conundrum. How do all of those separate streams of information in the brain come together to give you a single coherent perception of the world?
Visual, auditory, cognitive, and all other types of processing happen in parallel across specialized networks in the brain. …
We all have some things we’d rather not think about. But the less we want to think about something, the more it seems to pop into mind.
Trying to avoid or push away thoughts makes things worse over the long term. Thoughts continuously come and go, and trying to battle them is like trying to battle the ocean; you might jump over one wave but the next one is only a few moments away.
As I’ll explain, a more effective alternative to avoidance is acceptance.
In a classic study published in the 80s — cited more than 3000 times —…
John Gottman is a major name in relationship psychology. He has spent much of his career studying how couples interact and what those interactions mean for the quality of a marriage. His research into how relationships fall apart is a great resource for anyone who wants to strengthen their communication with their partner.
The secret to a healthy relationship turns out to be fairly simple: Make sure positive interactions sufficiently outnumber negative interactions.
In the 1980s, Gottman & Levenson carefully examined how 73 married couples interacted with each other. The researchers developed a checklist for classifying positive vs negative interactions…
If I say “strawberry ice cream”, strawberry ice cream will be the first thing that pops into your mind. It’ll start with a visual mental image, but you might go on to recall its fruity taste and frosty sensation too. If I instead told you not to think of strawberry ice cream, you’d probably still think of strawberry ice cream. For better or worse, words rapidly turn into mental images.
Mental imagery is often involuntary and prompted by what people around us say. The reason we cover our ears when people start talking about repulsive or terrifying scenes is because…
When people discover an unusual pain or rash on their body, Dr Google is probably first on the scene. Quick access to medical information can be helpful, but one byproduct of online self-diagnosis is a gasp of horror in response to the possible diseases associated with a person’s symptoms. A minor bruise easily turns into days of worry and a visit to the doctor’s office. The question is: Could googling your symptoms do more harm than good?
In 2020, a group of researchers in Germany tested this question by looking for the psychological side effects of self-diagnosis. They studied what…
When a letter is lying on the sidewalk, there are two types of people who can find it. There are those who will pick it up and post it in the nearest mailbox, and there are those who will notice it and walk straight past as if it didn’t exist. As long as people don’t heartlessly kick or destroy the letter, they can belong to either group without necessarily being evil. But psychologists have used this lost-letter experiment to investigate people’s levels of altruism.
In a lost-letter experiment, researchers will drop stamped and addressed envelopes on sidewalks across a town…