Alter Ego
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Learning about psychology, latest research, and interesting approaches that will help you understand yourself and others better🤔
Contact: @bender_201
Topics: #StressPsychology #LovePsychology #Learning #Memory
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Neuroplasticity

Some 15 years ago, if you showed me a diagram of my brain with certain areas more active than the others, I’d readily agree that it’s me, that’s who I am. If I have higher activity in areas responsible for anxiety or depression, that’s how it is; some people are more inclined to those things than the others. It’s not the case today, however. We have discovered the notion of neuroplasticity – an idea that our brains adapt to the way we use them.

Think of your brains as a normal muscle. When you use your muscles regularly, and in a specific fashion, they become more adapted to that kind of activity. Same applies to our brains. Recent research done on London taxi drivers confirms this theory.

London is a particularly tricky city to navigate. So, to become a taxi driver, one has to learn the entire city map by heart, and I tell you, that is far from an easy task. Thus, when the researchers took brain scans of London taxi drivers, they saw that regions responsible for spatial orientation and memory showed higher than usual activity. Those taxi drivers trained their brains to adapt to the difficult task of navigating in London.

#PsychFacts #PsychTerms
Why Do We Need Free Time?
#StressPsychology

Stress is exhausting, and sometimes all we want to do in our spare time is chill out. However, research suggests that challenging hobbies may be a better way to replenish ourselves.

Do you love to paint, go rock climbing, or play chess? These and other absorbing hobbies may help you to build a better buffer against stress. In the 1970s, a team led by American psychologist Peter Lewinsohn developed a theory known as “Behavioral Activation” (BA), originally aimed at treating depression. BA may also help us to stay positive in the face of stress.

Whatever the source, stress can make life feel less rewarding. If that feeling permeates other aspects of our lives, we may withdraw from activities we usually enjoy – and reducing these rewarding experiences can, in turn, further heighten stress.

BA takes an outside-in approach to this problem: by engaging in activities we enjoy, we experience emotional rewards that lead to more positive thoughts and feelings. Under stress. It’s your best interest to keep doing what you enjoy or what makes you feel good about yourself.

An enjoyable and exciting challenge may leave you feeling even more energized than resting when you feel tired. Using your BA skills can create what Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called “optimal experiences” – that is, moments of flow in which you feel so engaged, powerful, and confident that the stresses of life feel less intense. Make space for challenges in your spare time: they can help you build your resilience against stress.
Help us improve the content! Pick a topic that you would like to see on the channel more than any other:
Final Results
19%
Stress Psychology
17%
Love Psychology
15%
Psychopathology
31%
Education Psychology (Learning & Memory)
6%
Child Psychology
12%
The Psychology of Money
Alter Ego pinned «Help us improve the content! Pick a topic that you would like to see on the channel more than any other:»
Alter Ego
Help us improve the content! Pick a topic that you would like to see on the channel more than any other:
Thank you all for participating!
It helps us a lot in creating better content.

The results of this poll, however, do not mean that we will not cover the topics that did not get the majority of votes. It simply determines a certain kind of priorities in choosing topics for the followings posts.

We wish you all a great week!
The Role of Sleep in Learning
#Learning #Memory #Sleep

A clear illustration of developmental mechanisms involves the changing role of sleep in promoting learning and generalization. Infants spend a great deal of their lives sleeping; for example, 6-month-olds average 14–15 hours of sleep per day. This prolonged sleep serves an important function in promoting learning. However, the type of learning that it promotes changes with the maturation of the hippocampus, a brain structure that is particularly important for learning and remembering.

During the first 18 months following birth, sleep appears to promote learning of general, frequently encountered patterns, but not learning of the specifics of material only presented once or twice. In contrast, after age 24 months, children tend to show the opposite pattern: when tested shortly after napping, they often better remember the specifics of what they learned than peers who did not nap during that period; but their memory for general patterns is no better than those of peers who did not nap.

In 2014, Werchan and Gómez described mechanisms that could underlie this change from infancy to the preschool period. Their explanation was based on a major theory of memory, called Active Systems Consolidation Theory, which posits that two interconnected brain areas, the hippocampus and the cortex, simultaneously encode new information during learning. The hippocampus can learn details of new information after one or two experiences; the cortex produces abstraction of general patterns over many experiences. The two brain areas are strongly interconnected, and the theory posits that in older children and adults, hippocampal memories are replayed during sleep, which allows opportunities for the cortex to extract general patterns from the specific memories stored in the hippocampus. The mechanism works in the opposite direction as well; learning general patterns improves the retention of details of new experiences of the same type.

We can safely say that sleep is not, as many think, a waste of time but a tool to greater learning and memory capabilities. There is, now, a substantial body of research suggesting a great number of sleep benefits to learning and retention in humans. Even short naps, 15-30 min, can recharge your brain for more learning.
The Power of Grit: Why do you need resilience to learn?
#Learning #Grit #SuccessPsychology

There will be days when we’re tired and discouraged, and at such times it’s a challenge to follow through on what we have committed to do. Achievement is a blend of short-term and long-term decisions and actions.

Have you ever heard someone described as having “grit”? It’s a concept that psychologists have found to be linked to the way that some people sustain their effort over time, even when obstacles slow them down.

What is resilience? Psychologist Carol Dweck, pioneer of the “growth mindset,” describes it as any constructive response, be it in behaviour, attitude, or emotion, to a challenge. Resilient people are confronted by obstacles the same as everyone else, but they see the situation as a challenge, not as a defeat, and become aware of what they could do differently next time. In a 2002 study, a team of researchers (correctly) told undergraduate students at Stanford University that the brain is malleable and develops new connections when presented with challenges. These students went on to significantly outperform their peers, who had been told that intelligence is fixed by early childhood and cannot be explained.

Dweck suggests that a view of yourself as able to develop and learn tends to make people better able to survive social embarrassment, manage conflict, get the help they need, and master new things. If you encounter misfortune, don’t forget that the experience has given you an opportunity to discover something new about yourself or the situation itself. No matter what happens, finding ways to adapt and maintain your confidence is essential for success.

A major researcher in the area of “grit” is American psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth. The qualities she studies are partly about staying on your path despite setbacks, and resisting distractions: adaptability is good, but if you change your interests so often that nothing gets finished, you’re not really advancing. As she observes, you may need to be flexible, but “you also have to be good at something.” That something needs to be a “long-term passion” to be rewarding; if you find it, your focus keeps you motivated.

To stay resilient, you need a positive mindset (“I can learn, I can improve”) combined with a clear, long-term goal. Focus on something you care about, and then your quest to gather more knowledge about what you find most interesting will contribute to your success.
Credit to "DK Penguin Random House"
If you want to learn more about Grit and its effects on your life, I highly suggest a book by Angela Duckworth called "Grit." It explores this topic way more in depth. It changed my approach to the way I study quite significantly.

You can get it here: https://amzn.to/2OaHcyT
Too Much on Your Plate

#StressPsychology #TimeManagement

For many of us, managing competing demands is one of the constant pressures of modern life. With so many expectations to worry about, how can we use our best judgement when making decisions?

Stress can fluster us – and when we’re flustered, we don’t always make the best decisions. This can affect how we organize and manage all the tasks we’re facing. The first step to prioritizing is to attempt to look at our tasks less emotionally and more objectively.

We can better handle competing goals by the way we interpret the tasks involved. A 2016 British-Australian study gave participants two projects to complete: one that was already in “good” shape and one that was in “bad” shape, or less likely to be completed successfully. The experimenters offered a small reward of 10 cents for finishing both tasks and half that amount for finishing just one. Because the “bad” project was designed to have only a 20% chance of success - as opposed to 80% for the “good” one - prioritizing the “bad” project meant that the participants would probably be unable to finish either and get no money at all.

However, the researchers also presented the situation in one of two ways: some of the participants were told they would make money by completing the projects, and others were told they’d lose money by failing to complete them.

The results? Subjects who were told they would make money if successful played it safe and earned more. Subjects who’d been given the “avoid a loss” scenario tended to prioritize the low-chance-of-success goal, and often ended up failing both tasks.

Getting some distance

Here are some strategies that according to an Israeli-American study helped people clarify their thinking under pressure:

🔹 Imagine temporal distance. What would someone 10 years from now think was the priority?
🔹 Imagine physical distance. What would be the priority if this was happening on the other side of the world?
🔹 Imagine social distance. What would you consider the priority if this was happening to a stranger?
🔹 Imagine as a hypothetical. What would be the priority if this wasn’t a real situation, but an imaginary one?
Finding Meaning
#StressPsychology #Meaning #HappinessPsychology

Do we need to be stress-free in order to be happy? Far from it: a healthy level of stress helps us to develop emotionally and attain our goals. The challenge is to identify what makes that stress feel worthwhile.

Stress can make us unhappy – but happiness isn’t the only measure of well-being. It’s also important to have a sense of meaning in our lives.

American psychologist Martin Seligman is a pioneer of the positive psychology movement, which focuses on studying how and why people thrive. He argues that it is a mistake to assume we should measure our lives purely on whether they’re pleasant. Instead, Seligman describes three routes to happiness:

🔹 The Pleasant Life (also known as “hedonic” life): having many pleasure and the skills to make the best use of them.

🔹 The Good Life: knowing your strengths and building your work, family life, leisure, and friendships around being able to use those strengths to be more fully engaged.

🔹 The Meaningful Life: using your strengths in the service of something bigger than yourself – a cause you truly believe in.

A 2008 Australian study surveyed more than 12,000 adults and found that all three types of happiness predicted well-being, but that engagement (or “Good Life” experiences) and meaning were more powerful predictors than hedonism. Pleasurable experiences aren’t antithetical to our well-being, but meaning is more fundamental to it – and while stress certainly isn’t pleasurable, it is compatible with living a meaningful life.

Victor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist who survived the Holocaust. He spent his career studying the psychology of meaning – and suggested that we can discern meaning through three separate paths;

1. Meaning through creative values. Making or accomplishing something we feel is worthwhile.

2. Meaning through experiential values. Frankl gives the example of a mountain climber who is uplifted at the sight of an alpine sunset.

3. Meaning through attitudinal values. We can find meaning even in sad or stressful situations – by considering, for instance, that we are doing something valuable.

Some other practical suggestions for finding meaning:

Create a coherent narrative about your life. American psychologist Robert Biswas-Diener suggests simple writing exercises in which you can describe the best possible self you aspire to be – morally as well as in terms of achievements – and consider concrete strategies for working toward your goals.

Support others: be generous. A 2013 American study found that people pursuing happy lives tended to be “takers,” while people with meaningful lives tended to be “givers.”

Don’t wait for a leader. A 2016 British study found that, while having bad bosses could make a job feel meaningless, inspirational bosses were barely mentioned: people’s sense of meaning came from feeling that their own work contributed to society.

Living with a certain amount of stress can be tolerable, and even desirable, provided you feel it has meaning.
Do you know where you're going?

#motivation #succeed #SuccessPsychology
Reading time ~ 4min

It's already January 17th, which means that 60% of us have by now abandoned our New Years' resolutions. Why is that we get motivated and determined to finally turn out lives around, give up bad habits, start practicing good ones, but we unavoidably fail? Understanding how motivation works and what makes us fail can create more opportunities to stick to your goals. There's no shame in failing at resolutions. For example, it takes an average smoker 10 years to quit for good. Some never manage to do it in 20. The point is, anyone can train their self-control; we just haven't been taught how.

"Success is more likely when you focus on the right details in the right way."

When setting goals, we often fail to state them in a way that best helps us achieve them. Let me explain. Saying "I'm going to start exercising this year" is a good goal in and on itself. However, it clearly lacks specificity for our purposes. Thus, rule number one is "Create clear, specific goals." Phrasing it as "I will go to the gym twice a week and exercise once a week at home this year" will make it much easier to follow. Another example of a clearly defined goal would be saying, "I will avoid processed foods and foods high in added sugar" as opposed to "I will eat healthy."

"More difficult goals cause you to, often unconsciously, increase your effort, focus, and commitment to the goal; persist longer; make better use of the most effective strategies."

Let's face it, going to the gym once a week this year might be a secure commitment to follow. Still, it will not bring the observable and, most importantly, satisfying results. Numerous researchers have proven that difficult tasks bring us more satisfaction and higher sense of achievement. Difficult but possible is the key. So, the second rule would be "Set difficult but achievable goals. "don't go too easy on yourself, and you'll enjoy it more.

"The abstract 'Why' and concrete 'What' ways of thinking about your behavior have motivational pros and cons. Each mode of thinking, under different circumstances, can lead to greater achievement. The trick is to adjust your thinking according to your circumstances, and the good news is that it's not at all hard to do. You need to learn when to think why and when to think what."

Simply put, the abstract way of thinking (why) is better for motivation in the global, long-term sense. It allows you to see a bigger purpose in the task you're performing at the moment. You're better off thinking that you're "keeping the house clean" instead of "sucking up bread crumps" to be more motivated to vacuum. However, you must use caution when applying this to novel tasks. The tasks that you're not so familiar with are better thought of in a concrete sense (what). For example, if you never vacuumed before, your performance would be better if you focus on more concrete, functional "sucking up read crumps" than a bigger purpose.

"When people think about what they are doing in why terms, they are guided by the big picture—their smaller, everyday actions become a part of something larger and more important. They are more connected to long-term goals. As a result, when people think why rather than what, they are less impulsive, less vulnerable to temptation, and more likely to plan their actions in advance."

"When what you need to do is particularly difficult to get done, it pays to forget about the bigger picture and focus on the task at hand."


The third rule then would go as follows "Be aware of the way you think about the task at hand." Choosing the right approach might be the key to success in many of our commitments.

If we were to put this post in one sentence, it would look something like this: Set clear, specific, difficult but achievable goals and be aware of how you think about each task that brings you closer to those goals.

- Credit for this post: "Succeed. How we can reach our goals" by Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph. D.
Stress and Food. Eating Under Pressure

#StressPsychology #FoodPsychology
Reading time ~ 4min

Few of us feel good about ourselves if we eat unhealthy and gain weight. Under pressure, controlling our diet can be even more difficult, which can worsen the stress. How do we build a more positive relationship with food?

In cultures that associate beauty with being thin, food can become inherently stressful. A better understanding of our own impulses can help us to develop a more positive relationship with food, even when we’re under stress.

There are sound biological reasons why, under stress, many of us are prone to overeating. Stress prompts the body to release the hormone cortisol, which stimulates appetite. The body has evolved to deal with physical threats such as avoiding predatory animals: cortisol prompts us to build up the body’s food stores in preparation for fight or flight. This explains why we comfort eat: it’s not greed, but the body’s inherent response to stress.

Cortisol is also associated with wanting junk food. A 2001 American study found that “high cortisol reactors” – volunteers who released higher amounts of cortisol in response to a perceived threat – ate similar amounts to “low cortisol reactors” in calm circumstances, but ate significantly more sugar and fat when subjected to stress.

American exercise scientist Christine Maglione-Garves has also observed that cortisol increases the storage of belly fat: calorie for calorie, stressed people gain more weight. A 2005 American study found that weight gain may be a way of turning off our stress response: lab rats kept in stressful conditions showed a drop in cortisol once they’d accumulated a certain amount of belly fat. What’s more, a 2009 American study found that when monkeys were fed a high-calorie diet, monkeys living under greater stress gained more weight than the less-stressed monkeys.

In short, if you’re prone to feeling guilty or insecure because of your diet or body image, try to be kinder to yourself. Stress is likely a major contributor, and self-loathing only makes you feel worse. Your first step should be to reduce your stress by ceasing to blame yourself.

Should you diet? 

Healthy eating is good for both our physical and psychological well-being, so if you’d like to shift to a more balanced diet, that’s probably a good idea: ask a doctor or a dietician to give you some pointers on how to get started.

However, it’s wise to be skeptical of extreme diets that promise you rapid weight loss in a matter of weeks: multiple studies confirm that these are neither nutritious nor a stress-busting solution. Crash diets of this kind don’t address the underlying causes of the weight gain, so their effects don’t last.
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