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Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994
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Archive for the ‘Psychology’

Boredom is actually good for you

June 11, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Psychology No Comments →

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Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions. Image: Robert Plutchik

Although boredom is essential for human development it’s been given a bad rap. “Boredom has traditionally been associated with a range of negative outcomes, both within the workplace and outside it,” Sandi Mann and Rebekah Cadman of the University of Central Lancashire write in their 2014 paper. Mann and Cadman examined the relationship between boredom and creative potential on a range of tasks in two studies.

In the first study, 80 eager volunteers visited their lab only to be given the dull, monotonous chore of copying out lengthy lists of telephone numbers, or to be excluded from it (this was the control group), followed by the creative task of thinking of as many possible uses for a pair of plastic cups.

In the second study, a further 90 volunteers were split into three groups, each group being assigned to various types of boring activities (copying numbers, reading the numbers, or being excused from the whole thing – again, a control), followed by a creative task.

“Results suggested that boring activities resulted in increased creativity and that boring reading activities lead to more creativity in some circumstances,” the authors write.

Read it at New Statesman.

How to fall in love with anyone in 36 questions

January 15, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Psychology, Re-lay-shun-ships No Comments →

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Illustration by Brian Rea for the New York Times

In a lab experiment, the psychologist Arthur Aron succeeded in making two strangers fall in love. Yeah there are variables that were not considered, and we don’t like to think that humans are so easy, but let’s say it worked. Basically the subjects sit face to face in a quiet place and answer 36 increasingly personal questions. Then they stare into each other’s eyes for 4 minutes.

Disclaimer: Embark on this experiment at your own risk. We are not responsible for any foolishness that ensues.

Here’s the first set of questions.

1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?

2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?

3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?

4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?

5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?

6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?

7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?

8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.

9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?

11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.

12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?

Read To Fall In Love With Anyone, Do This in the New York Times.

What is your New Year’s Resolution?

January 05, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Psychology 7 Comments →

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Photos: Cat and Hospital by Ricky Villabona

1. Finish second novel. (First one done, will never be published.)
2. Read Swann’s Way.

Tell. If you make them public, the possibility of embarrassment might make you stick to your resolutions.

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The difference between Jealousy and Envy

December 30, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Psychology No Comments →

Georges Barbier: Envy, 1914
Envy, 1914 by Georges Barbier

Love makes the world go round, says the poet, while the cynic says it’s money; and Peter Toohey, professor of classics at the University of Calgary, constructs an entertaining argument for jealousy being the wellspring of a much greater part of our emotional lives, and of a larger proportion of literature, law, and daily existence, than we may have thought. Elsewhere, Professor Toohey has also worked up boredom and melancholy; in those books as in this brisk survey, he proposes some benefits of emotions usually considered to be negative: jealousy is “a potent means for the assertion of individual rights and the encouragement of cooperation and equitable treatment.”

To distinguish jealousy from its relative, envy, he quotes Peter van Sommers’s succinct definition of the two: “Envy concerns what you would like to have but don’t possess, whereas jealousy concerns what you have and do not wish to lose.” I am jealous of that woman my husband seems to admire; I envy her ability to walk in high heels. Othello is jealous of Desdemona, but Iago is envious of Othello. Toohey emphasizes that the definition is slippery, but that we usually know one from the other; it’s just that the two are intertwined, a Laocoön psychic trope, with jealousy more often than envy associated with violence—thrown dishes, outraged husbands, women scorned, murder. He details some of the more famous, gruesome modern murder cases, but Othello and Medea are the archetypes. “Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?”

Read Who Is Not Guilty of This Vice? by Diane Johnson in the NYRB.

When the problem is that you have no problem.

November 22, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Psychology 5 Comments →

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Thanks to Tina for the alert.

Shocked into resurrection

May 07, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Psychology, Science 1 Comment →

Sherwin Nuland, the brilliant surgeon and author of How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter, died in March. (Read Remembering A Surgeon Who Healed With Words. The article has links to his articles at the New Republic.)

Dr. Nuland wouldn’t have written his great works if he hadn’t recovered from a crushing depression leading to his confinement in a mental hospital. When all the available treatments and medications had failed to bring him back from the black pit, a resident suggested electroshock therapy. Those of us who watch too many movies (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Frances) think of electroshock therapy as a form of torture that turns its victims into zombies, but as Nuland recounts in his moving TED talk from 2001, it was his resurrection.

Oddly enough, after watching this TED talk, we picked up Andrew Sean Greer’s The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, in which the heroine undergoes shock treatment for her depression…and travels through time. (First impression: The plot is very similar to that of Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, which came out in the same year.)