Friday Factoids: That’s such great news! But why am I crying?

Discordant expressions of emotions, such as crying at a wedding, or laughing when one hears a sad story may actually play an important role in our psychological functioning. Yale researcher Oriana Aragon has been studying this phenomenon via experiments in her lab, and she posits that when people are at risk of being overwhelmed by their emotions, the outward display of the opposite emotional state functions to restore balance.

 

Our threshold for emotional intensity tends to vary, which is why some individuals are more prone to ill-fitting responses than others. This is why some, but certainly, and thankfully, not all, might be witnessed crying during a wedding. Adults possess a more highly developed capacity for emotional regulation, which is why children more often provide responses that signify discordant emotional expressions. This concept is vividly and hilariously depicted within 2011’s viral video of Lily being informed that she was going to Disneyland.

 

In her lab experiments, Aragon and her colleagues asked participants to imagine a scenario in which they were informed that they had just won the lottery. Most participants responded as one may expect, with intense expressions of joy. A smaller percentage of participants, however, responded to the news with facial expressions of sadness, and occasionally tears. More subtle demonstrations of discordant expressions of emotions were also witnessed in examining participants’ responses to pictures of infants. Common expressions of affection that highlight this phenomenon included, “I want to pinch those cheeks. That baby is so cute I want to eat it up.” Younger babies tended to elicit expressions of playful aggression more often when photographs of younger babies were presented. Furthermore, participants who displayed discordant emotional reactions via expressions of playful aggression also endorsed the tendency to cry when reuniting with a loved one.

 

Reference
Wray, H. (2014, November, 6). Nervous Laughter, Tears of Joy.

 

Graham Martin, MA
WKPIC Doctoral Intern

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Friday Factoid: The Power of Positive Thinking. . .with a Healthy Dose of Realism

 

Many of us have been advised to “think positive”, but is this platitude truly helpful? The ubiquity of such advice is undeniable, and its efficacy seems intuitively strong, but the bulk of research is now showing that optimism may actually serve as a hindrance. While a happy-go-lucky attitude may work wonders in reducing stress, it also depletes us of the energy we need to successfully pursue our goals.

 

Individuals who are particularly adept at imagining positive results fool their brains into reacting as if the positive outcome occurred in reality. This, in turn, slackens ones readiness to actively pursue his or her goals. Think of a time during which you felt particularly optimistic about an exam, only to feel confounded and ambushed on test day, earning a score far below that which you expected. Now think of a time during which you were notably anxious about an upcoming exam, with the potential for flunking ever salient. Such a pessimistic outlook, if entertained early enough, may have led to a great deal of studying and preparation in order to minimize the chances of receiving a failing grade, leading to a performance on the exam that far exceeded your expectations.

 

Acknowledging the notion that optimism and positive thinking might hinder performance does not, however, imply that negative thinking and pessimism is the optimal strategy for success. Rather, researchers have endorsed a hybrid theory which recommends blending positive thinking with a healthy dose of realism. This can be applied by spending a few minutes vividly imagining a wish coming true, followed by a few minutes imagining all of the potential obstacles that might get in the way. This process, referred to as mental contrasting (Oettingen, 2014), has produced powerful results in experiments, leaving participants feeling more energized and subsequently resulting in greater success, compared to groups tasked with positive thinking alone.

 

So the next time you are faced with a challenge, expect to succeed, but also prepare for the various contingencies that might get in your way. As Zig Ziglar famously stated, “Expect the best. Prepare for the worst.”

 

Reference
Oettingen, G. (2014, October 24). The Problem with Positive Thinking. Retrieved from nytimes.com .

 

Graham Martin, MA
WKPIC Doctoral Intern

 

 

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Friday Factoids: New iPhone or Famous Pancakes?

 

 

 

Last weekend I waited in line for an hour and a half to try the famous pancakes from The Pancake Pantry in Nashville, Tennessee. During my ample time to ponder, I wondered about whether or not such a long wait time would enhance or hinder my dining experience. Also while waiting in line, I noticed myself staring into the screen of my old iPhone, which is due for an upgrade.

 

Somewhat serendipitously, I came across an article this week on npr.com that addressed the concept of happiness, and whether or not it can be purchased. The article cited a growing body of research that suggests experiences tend to make people happier than the acquisition of material possessions, and referenced an article entitled Waiting for Merlot: Anticipatory Consumption of Experiential and Material Purchases that tracked 100 college students and more than 2,200 randomly selected adults in order to assess their feelings about material possessions compared to lived experiences. The findings suggest that, while people tend to feel excitement about both, they express more positive feelings about experiences. This is likely due to the creativity involved in planning and executing an experience, while making a new purchase tends to be more concrete. We know what to expect when we buy a new computer, because we have likely done the necessary research in order to make an informed purchase, but planning a vacation or an afternoon on the town tends to offer more fluidity and more anticipatory excitement.

 

As I waited in line, I engaged in a pleasant conversation with my girlfriend about what kind of pancakes to order, did some people watching, and my appetite and excitement seemed to grow as I inched ever closer to the dining area. In the end, I was more than satiated, and left the restaurant feeling better than I had when I arrived. More importantly, the memory of this experience gets better with each reflection, which cannot be said about recollections of past purchases. So when you ask yourself which experience might yield the most happiness, try to recall how you felt before and after waiting in line for that big Black Friday sale, versus how you felt before and after a great ride at Six Flags, or a delicious meal with friends.

 

Graham Martin, MA
WKPIC Doctoral Intern

 

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Article Review: Benefits and Challenges of Fun in the Workplace (Everett, 2011)

 

 

Results yielded by studies indicate that fun in the workplace may be an inexpensive and profitable method of engagement that directly correlates with higher rates of employee satisfaction and increased morale amongst employees, which in turn can positively affect products and customer service outcomes. Studies posit that younger employees desire more fun in the workplace than their older counterparts. Many managers and supervisors are realizing this, thereby attempting to create a more fun, playful, and creative work environment in order to boost employee happiness, and consequently, productiveness (Everett, 2011).

 

However, the consensus is far from unanimous, as other studies have yielded contradictive or more ambivalent results. Some studies postulate that creating a “fun” and playful workplace may be not be effective. While generational differences are part of the reason, personality differences play a part as well.  The simple fact is that there generally will not be a “fun” idea that pleases everyone. Bolton and Houlihan (2009) emphasize the important distinction between organic fun and manufactured fun. Manufactured fun is when the concept of fun becomes just that—a concept, which may be devoid of authenticity and earnestness. It is a sense of “fun” that feels contrived, forced, and ultimately transparent, as the company’s agenda is painfully obvious. Conversely, organic fun descends from a positive organizational culture, is adaptive, and has the ability to thrive in the most diverse of environments and atmospheres (Bolton & Houlihan, 2009). Everett (2011) notes that although it is often impossible to create a fun philosophy in the workplace that will be approved and heralded by every employee, the benefits gained from implemented fun in the workplace far outweigh the challenges.

 

Many organizations are in competition with one another to recruit and retain employees; thus an impetus is created, and an organization should shoulder the responsibility of creating policies and workplace philosophies that maximize the contentedness of its employees. This is especially true in the public and non-profit sectors, as employees often sought out the profession or chose that particular vocational trajectory for altruistic reasons or for reasons of wanting intrinsic fulfillment. These employees are often overworked, underpaid, and they feel woefully underappreciated. Everett cites Google as the gold-standard in successfully instituting a sense of fun in the workplace, stating that Google is rumored to receive more than 3000 applications per day as they have created a harmonious balance and integrative between work and play (Everett, 2011).

 

Everett (2011) posits that although infusing playfulness and fun into public and non-profit settings may be a challenging endeavor, it may be well worth the challenge as fun workplaces have a tendency to enhance learning and increase productivity and creativity, while reducing the potential for absenteeism and stress-related burnout. Workplace fun can help employees feel acknowledged, appreciated, and validated. Everett states that job satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) can affect life satisfaction.

 

Positive feelings towards one’s job can generate more positive feelings towards life in general; conversely, negative feelings towards one’s job can create the sense of more negativity in life. Many factors contribute to job satisfaction, such as wages, work relationships, the perception of supervisors, and maintenance of a fun, balanced work environment. A sense of fun and play in the workplace can be a viable mechanism that is utilized to establish trust, encourage creativity, and increase communication amongst everyone in the company. Everett (2011) also suggests that deregulating the work environment can be a vital in creating a more fun workplace, as it will provide opportunities for managers to better, more colloquially connect with subordinates, and establish a bond of relatedness. This can also atmospherically diminish the sense of looming hierarchical overtures, as supervisors may not be deemed as threatening or daunting (Ramsey, 2001). A playful atmosphere in the workplace goes beyond the actual acts of “fun.” For example, company picnics or casual Fridays are actually about creating an organizational culture, which can be defined as “the part of an organization’s internal environment that incorporates a set of assumptions, beliefs, and values that organization members share and use to guide their functioning” (Weinstein, 1996, pg. 31).

 

Research suggests that fun in the workplace does have a positive influence on customer service. A common example is Pike’s Place Market, in Seattle, WA, that prepares and sells fish. Instead of being the typical, malodorous fish market, the owners decided to inject a sense of fun and play in the equation, and it has become a very popular tourist destination (Ramsey, 2001). Many other companies, from banks, retail stores, and corporate headquarters, have instituted fun philosophies in the workday. For example, Gymboree, a children’s clothing store, participates in twice weekly “recess,” in which employees have snack time and get to play outside at the on-campus lagoon. A bank in Missouri has incorporated a weekly, 30-minute game of Charades into their schedule. These things may seem trivial or irrelevant, but they have boosted employee morale (Everett, 2011).

 

Fun is a conceptually ambiguous construct, and can vary dramatically depending on perspective. Managers/supervisors first need to understand their employees before beginning to determine what constitutes a fun policy. Generational identity, socioeconomic background, and the organizational culture can increase the sense of ambiguity, as it inflates the proportion of potential variance.

 

A major factor that contributes to how workplace fun is perceived is what is known as a generational identity. Everett states that up to four different generations can coexist in the workplace at any given time. Studies suggest that a generational identity begins early in life. In theory, people born in a certain era will develop unique values, work ethics, personalities, and beliefs. They will view the nature and function of the workplace different than those in a different generational cohort (Boltan & Houlihan, 2009). The “Baby Boomer” generation (born between 1941 and 1960) are thought to be naturally competitive; consequently, they may perceive workplace fun as antithetical to the purpose of work and counterproductive to their competitive edge. Generation X employees (born between 1961 and 1981) prefer a balance between work and play. This group tends to value fun, informality, and creativity; many of them are neutral about fun in the workplace, and many view it as a benefit. Generation Y employees (born between 1981 and 2000), also known as Millennials, are thought to have been “coddled and coached by their apologetic parents, leading to the development of strong ambition, over confidence, high achievement orientation, and a narcissistic outlook.” (Everett, 2011, page 5). While Generation X employees may view fun as a benefit, Generation Y employees exhibit a tendency to view it as a requirement. However, it appears that many of the differences between the generational cohorts have been disappearing as different generations simultaneously acclimate and assimilate to the specific culture of their workplace (Biggs, 2007; Boltan & Houlihan, 2009).

 

In a lifetime we will spend more than 90,000 hours in the workplace–this is too much time to not have fun! A sense of fun/playfulness on the job can augment employee motivation, increase customer support, reduce stress, increase productivity, and increase customer satisfaction. In fact, many companies have already reported increases in both productivity and customer satisfaction as a result of incorporating a fun philosophy in the workplace (Everett, 2011).

 

 

References

Biggs, S. (2007).  Thinking about generations: Conceptual positions and policy implications. Journal of Social Issues, 63.

 

Bolton, S.C., and Houlihan, M. (2009). Are we having fun yet? A consideration of workplace fun and engagement. Employee Relations, 31, 6.

 

Everett, A. (2011). Benefits and challenges of fun in the workplace.  Library Leadership and Management, 25, 1.

 

Ramsey, R. (2001). Fun at work: Lessons from the fish market. Supervision, 62, 4.

 

Weinstein, M. (1996). Managing to have fun. New York: Simon & Schuster.

 

 

Faisal Roberts, MA
WKPIC Doctoral Intern

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Friday Factoids: Getting Up-To-Date Info on Medications

 

 

Where do YOU look up information about prescription medications? Wikipedia is the most used resource around the world! Google and WedMD are also popular and about half of all Americans uses them. Unfortunately, these websites are not always accurate and up-to-date online resources.

 

A study called “Drug Safety in the Digital Age” that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine examined the reliability of drug information found on these commonly viewed sites on the Internet. The study looked at how quickly these sites are updated after the FDA issues a safety warning about a particular drug. They specifically looked at 22 prescriptions drugs over a 2-year timeframe.

 

They concluded that more than 1/3 of Wikipedia pages were updated within 2 weeks; however, 23% were updated in over 2 weeks and more than 1/3 were not updated more than a year later. The average length of time was 42 days.

 

The article stated that FDA.gov is the best resource for accurate and updated information. A caution that the article noted stated, “Currently, safety communications are housed on the Med-Watch portal, whereas electronic drug labels containing information on efficacy, dosage, and contraindications are located in the Drugs@FDA database – and there is no obvious link between these two resources.” For Twitter users, FDA also has two Twitter accounts (@FDA_Drug_Info and @FDAMedWatch).

 

Generally, the study suggested that people cross-reference information that they find with credible resources.

 

Gupta, Saarik. (2014, October). How reliable is the drug info you find online? CNN Health.

 

Brittany Best, BA
WKPIC Doctoral Intern

 

 

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Friday Factoids: Can Drinking Soda Accelerate Aging?

 

 

A recurring story throughout news websites this week is a study about a link found between sugar-sweetened soda/pop and aging. The study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that individuals who drank pop frequently generally had shorter telomeres in their white blood cells than did individuals who did not drink as much pop. Telomeres are found at the end of chromosomes and are critical in cell division. The length of telomeres is believed to be linked to the health of the cell. Researchers believe that shorter telomeres indicate that an individual is less healthy and aging faster.

 

The study noted that telomere length did not appear to be affected by consumptions of diet pop or 100% fruit juices.  The study also reported that their results indicated 1 in 5 adults drink a 20-ounce pop daily and found that this consumption “could equal 4.6 years of extra aging.”

 

Simply put, this means that they found a link between sugar-sweetened pop and premature aging in some cells in the body, which, according to the article, puts individuals at risk for diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. This article compared the premature aging from drinking pop to that seen in individuals who smoke.

 

How much sugar is safe? The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar to no more than 150 calories a day for men and 100 calories a day for women (one 12-ounce can of regular pop has between 140-170 calories and about 40 grams of sugar).

 

Kimball, Henry. (2014, October). That sweet drink may age you. CNN Health.

 

Brittany Best, BA
WKPIC Doctoral Intern

 

 

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Friday Factoids: Sleep Can Affect Brain Size!

 

A recent study examined the relationship between sleep and brain volume. The study, which was published in an online article from the journal Neurology, studied 147 adults. Two MRI scans were conducted on the participants 3 ½ years apart and the participants also completed a sleep hygiene questionnaire. The researchers determined that about 35% of the participants met criteria for “poor sleep health.”

 

For our neuro-folks, the study found a link between poor sleep quality and “reduced volume within the right superior frontal cortex in cross-sectional analyses” as well as “an increased rate of atrophy within widespread frontal, temporal, and parietal regions in longitudinal analyses.” Poor sleep did not appear to be correlated with hippocampal volume or atrophy.

 

If that sounds too complicated, read this! The study found a link between poor sleep quality and faster decline in brain volume or size (certain areas of the brain are more affected than others). They also found that the effects were more pronounced in individuals over 60 years old.

 

The study noted that it is unclear which comes first, so they don’t know if poor sleep causes the declining brain volume or if the declining brain volume causes poor sleep. However, these results may be an incentive to improve the quality of our sleep and to help our patients improve the quality of their sleep!

 

Sexton, C. E., Storsve, A. B., Walhovd, K., B., Johansen-Berg, H., Fjell, A. M. (2014). Poor sleep quality is associated with increased cortical atrophy in community-dwelling adults [Abstract]. Neurology, 83(11) 967-973.

 

Willingham, V. (2014, September). Lack of sleep may shrink your brain. CNN Health.

 

Brittany Best, BA
WKPIC Doctoral Intern

 

 

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Friday Factoids: A Link Between TIA and PTSD?

 

 

A new study has investigated the link between “mini-strokes,” transient ischemic attacks (TIA’s) and the development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Published in the journal Stroke, the study examined 108 patients who had suffered a TIA. The study involved questionnaires the patients completed three months after their TIA. The co-author of the study Kathrin Utz, Ph.D. defined a TIA as a “brief episode of stroke-like symptoms, such as sudden onset of numbness, weakness or paralysis, slurred speech, loss of language, sudden loss of memory, blurred vision, confusion, and severe headache.” An article added that TIA are cause by a restricted blood supply and typically occur for less than 5 minutes.

 

The study found that 1/3 of the patients developed symptoms of PTSD, including worry, nightmares, flashbacks, and social isolation. The study also noted that individuals who exhibit symptoms of PTSD were also more likely to demonstrate symptoms of depression and anxiety. Utz reported that younger patients and patients who generally found it difficult to cope with stress were more likely to present with PTSD and other mental health symptoms. Although Utz stated that the reason for the correlation between TIA’s and PTSD symptoms is currently unclear, she suggested that an emphasis should be placed on teaching TIA patients, particularly, younger TIA patients, coping skills for managing stress.

 

Pedersen, Traci. (2014, September). Mini-stroke may lead to PTSDPsychCentral.

 

 

Brittany Best, BA
WKPIC Doctoral Intern

 

 

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WKPIC INTERNS 2014-2015!

Wow has this group been camera-shy! But our intrepid photographer Will Battle at last tracked them down and got a photo.

 

 

On the left is Faisal Roberts from Carlow University in Pittsburgh, PA. At the center is Brittany Best, from the Adler School of Professional Psychology in Chicago, IL. On the right, we have Graham Martin, from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology in Chicago, IL.

 

Welcome!

 

 

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Friday Factoids: Bullying in the Workplace

 

 

Bullying. What do you think of when you hear that word? What age demographic immediately springs to the forefront of your mind? What specific behaviors and images does your mind immediately conjure?

 

Without being especially informed or at all learned about the topic, I would have guessed that bullying reaches its peak around elementary school, and progressively wanes as children become more mature going through middle and high school. That’s not to ludicrously state that bullying completely and magically dissolves in the teenage years, but rather a (speculative) statement that traditional bullying behaviors (name calling, hitting, etc.) are not as frequent or blatant as children progress past elementary school.

 

A new nationwide study conducted by CareerBuilder that polled 3, 400 full time employees in the private sector across many different industries yielded results indicating that nearly 33 % of individuals in the workforce experienced bullying and, startlingly, 20 % have left their job due to it. Rosemary Haefner, an HR representative, stated that “Bullying impacts workers of all backgrounds regardless of race, education, income, and level of authority within an organization.” Although workplace bullying tended to affect more women than men (34% to 22 %), both ratios were fairly high. Regarding ethnicity, the numbers of those that felt bullied were relatively even: 25 % Latino, 27 % African American, and 24 % Caucasian.

 

“Professional bullying” is difficult to tackle head on, as the metric defining this kind bullying is elusive, diffuse and ambiguous. It is not the relatively basic conceptualization of bullying that exists in the schoolyard, which generally existed within the parameters of simplicity. This type of bullying has evolved to become increasingly complex and insidiously adaptive. “Professional bullying” can be direct, such as belittling, intimidation, and open criticism in front of others, or more subtle, such as passive aggressiveness, being ignored or dismissed, or being excluded from projects, etc. What do you make of this information? Are you at all surprised? What steps can be taken to reduce professional bullying?

 

Dill, Catherine. (2014, September).  One in five workers have left their job because of bullying.  Retrieved from Forbes.

 

Faisal Roberts, MA
WKPIC Doctoral Intern

 

 

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