“The purpose of life is to discover your gift.
The work of life is to develop it.
The meaning of life is to give your gift away.”
It’s known that the progress of these diseases can be slowed by eating a diet rich in antioxidants and maintaining normal levels of blood sugar, body weight and blood pressure. Now LIGHT therapy is a focus of research.
In a study published in the Journal of Gerontology, subjects looked at a specific spectrum of red light for just 3 minutes a day. All subjects had an improvement in color perception, with people over 40 showing the most improvement.
The study was small and there was no control group. More study is needed to ensure this treatment works and is safe, and even then treatment should be under a doctor’s care. The promising news is that red lights have been shown to be safe in other studies.
Mitochondria is involved in other disease, such as Parkinson’s disease and diabetes, so it’s even possible red light therapies may help these and other conditions.
Teaching People Kindness and Compassion to Animals, Each Other and our Planet.
Admittedly, part of my reason for wanting to lose weight is vanity. More importantly, the other part is for my health.
My body does not bounce back as easily as it once did (even though there’s more to bounce).
I’d like to blame it on genetics but since neither of my parents was overweight I know it’s my lifestyle choices. Here’s my take and confession (in red) on this article about “Six of the top lifestyle habits to focus on”.
“Fat in the mid-section is metabolically active and we gain more of it as we age. That’s not a good thing. As opposed to the fat we gain in our thighs and rear, abdominal fat can lead to several chronic conditions.” (Totally agree!)
“A 2014 study found that the type of fat we consume might make all the difference. Participants in the study were asked to eat 750 extra calories every day for seven weeks. Those having excess calories from saturated fats had activated cells that promoted fat storage in the belly and increased insulin resistance. However, individuals who had had a high consumption of polyunsaturated fats found in fatty fish, nuts and seeds, gained less abdominal fat and were more likely to increase muscle mass instead.”
“Multiple studies have demonstrated this connection between saturated fat intake and belly fat, especially when it is coupled with reduced levels of estrogen.”
(My problem is not cutting out saturated fats – it’s eating too many nuts and seeds. I love the crunch and crunching food expends calories)
“Jump off the treadmill, if want to lose weight. If you change nothing about your exercise routine now, it’s almost a guarantee you will find the pounds creeping up. This all boils down to a loss of muscle mass — a condition called sarcopenia that begins at 40.”
“In fact, up to 40 percent of muscle mass is lost between the ages of 40 and 80. (Ay yi iiii I only have a short time before ALL my muscles are gone) This alone is the kiss of death to metabolism. Muscle weighs more than fat making it a metabolically superior calorie burner.”
“. . . attempts to lose weight on low-calorie diets can lead to even more lost muscle. Studies have found that regular resistance or strength training may be a better alternative than your daily runs to preserve and gain muscle — even when coupled with a low-calorie diet. Aerobic exercise is still important, just don’t make it your only form of activity.”
“A study from the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that healthy behaviors, like eating fruits and vegetables daily, significantly improved the odds of successful aging. Plants provide a protective measure against oxidative stress and free radical formation — two things that go hand-in-hand and increase with age.”
“Oxidative stress occurs when the balance between free radicals in the body and our ability to fight against is uneven, with free radicals prevailing. Free radicals can cause disease and there is an association with an increased risk of formation of free radicals as we age. That’s why after a certain age, building up our defenses (through having lots of antioxidants in plants) can help reduce this imbalance and stack the cards in our defense system instead.”
(Many studies focus on the inflammatory process being involved in many chronic conditions, including the fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue and Hashimoto’s diseases I have. I struggle with eating more vegetables and THAT I blame on my father who rarely ate vegetables . . . but lived to 93 . . . )
“The more years we live, the higher our risk of developing a disease, especially heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. All of these conditions are tied, in some way, to inflammation. A 2017 study from Georgetown showed that mindfulness meditation had a significant impact on reducing stress hormones and inflammatory proteins and a 2014 study found that just 25 minutes of meditation a day could alleviate stress levels.”
If you don’t have 25 minutes to spare each day, a 5-minute meditation helps. Or 1-minute meditations can calm your mind. It’s that easy.
“Even individuals with relatively healthy diets can be deficient in magnesium. Adequate magnesium is important to protect our bones. In addition to promoting bone health, magnesium plays a role in protecting our brain, heart and nervous system. It’s also associated with keeping energy levels up and bathroom habits regular.”
Women between ages 31-50 need 320 milligrams daily, according to the National Institutes of Health. Magnesium-rich foods include:
The American Heart Association found that heavy drinking in middle age — defined as more than two drinks daily — increased the risk of heart attack and stroke (and breast cancer) more than traditional risk factors such as diabetes and heart disease.
Here’s the article: How to Lose Weight After 40
A picture book for children for the reduced price of only $6.99!
To read Maui’s story click here
Many, many, many years ago, at a business lunch, I defended the pig as being a very intelligent animal. I pointed out that pigs were one of the few animals that would drink alcohol willingly. You have to remember I was young and so was my view of intelligence.
My colleagues found it humorous. In the ensuing year they inundated me by pigs of all sizes, shapes and incarnations: Stuffed pigs, pig pens, pig posters, marizapan pigs, ceramic pigs, wooden pigs, pig calendars, pig stationery. Drowning in all things pig, I vowed never again to defend a sow in public and hence forth I would make it a point to talk about expensive crystal or gemstones.
I’ve always been fascinated by the brain and applied a lot of what I read about neuroscience when I treated psychiatric patients. I recognized that Maui was using brain plasticity to help him recover. But I was writing his story with my then 5 year old granddaughter in mind. So I didn’t put in the neuroscience. But Maui’s story seemed a perfect introduction to perseverance, hope and healing.
“As a behavioral pediatrician, I see many children with a variety of difficulties. It can be hard to persist when you are having a bad day. However, I think the story of Maui and the will to continue to try, not give up on what he truly enjoys can be a wonderful conversation starter for children facing adversity. I will recommend this book to my families in clinic.” Nerissa Bauer, M.D., Behavioral pediatrician, Consultant, Blogger, Carmel, Indiana
Clancy Tucker writes young adult fiction for reluctant readers but has also achieved success as a poet and photographer. Clancy has lived in four countries, speaks three languages, has photography accepted and published in books in the USA (Innocent Dreams, Endless Journeys & A Trip Down Memory Lane), used as covers for magazines (‘The Australian Writer’ – 2008 & ‘Victorian Writer – 2008), has work registered with the International Library of Photography, published in literary magazines and he’s written more than 90 short stories.
At Risk Youth
Special Needs Children
“Viktor & Rolf subvert the traditional catwalk by showcasing this collection in a special haute couture presentation. The film is directed by Marijke Aerden, narrated by MIKA and shot on location in the Waldorf Astoria in Amsterdam. The ‘Change’ animation is realised by Studio Maan Bijster. Concept and text by Viktor & Rolf.”
My name is Alexander Hamilton.
And there’s a million things I haven’t done.
But just you wait, just you, wait.”
“I’m a general, whee”
Charles Lee served as a general in the Continental army during the American Revolutionary War
Philip and Eliza with piano
Eliza was Hamilton’s wife. Philip, his son, was killed in a duel (before Hamilton was).
Spinning piece on stage
Stage with lift in back to raise actors
“Hey yo, I’m just like my country
I’m young, scrappy and hungry
And I’m not throwing away my shot”
I was blessed in my first forty plus years with relatively good health. In 1995 that changed for me with the diagnosis of fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue. I admit it’s been a struggle trying to ignore, over-ride or giving in to the daily fatigue, pain and various other “irritants”. The older I get the harder it’s been.
In public I look fine and only those who intimately know me would know if I were feeling exhausted, in pain or depressed. When I’m feeling particularly bad no one knows as I shelter in place – stay home and lick my wounds. Any contact, even a phone call, can feel overwhelming. Weirdly, having to isolate at home during the pandemic has been a relief.
CURIOUStotheMAX blog has been my in-home companion: A way to connect to the world and my incredibly understanding friends while expending minimal energy; posts that remind me to eat better, be grateful, and most of all Peggy and her delightful drawings that make me smile.
My Baha’i faith, above all, is what sustain me. Even on my worst days my question is never “Why me?”. I ask God for guidance, the wisdom to understand that guidance and the where-with-all to carry it out . . . one day at a time . . . sometimes one hour at a time.
Levels of epicatechin tend to be much lower in milk chocolate, which contains little cocoa, and white chocolate contains little or none of the nutrient. (Fine by me, since I do NOT consider any white food to be chocolate.)
“Epicatechin is known to prompt cells that line blood vessels to release extra nitric oxide, a substance that has multiple effects in the body. Nitric oxide slightly increases vasodilation, or a widening of the veins and arteries, improving blood flow and cardiac function. It also gooses muscle cells to take in more blood sugar, providing them with more energy, and it enhances the passage of oxygen into cells.”
Read the entire article and click here:Chocolate Really can boost your workout.
Judy Formato collects people – from bus rides, parties, meetings and invites them to her “POP” gatherings – Painting on the Patio. A few years ago I met her collection of very talented and welcoming women who have been meeting for many years to paint, chat and share resources.
I experimented with my newly purchased pastels to color two of my quickie life drawing sketches.
The afternoons were topped off with wine and snacks. Judy served a verrrrry tasty egg plant dip that had zing from some delicious pepper sauce imported by the family fine Italian food company Formato Brothers.
Here are my “befores” and “afters”:
The cognitive psychologist Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winner in 2002, was among the first to propose that attention is a limited cognitive resource and that some cognitive processes require more attention than others. This is particularly the case for activities that require conscious control, like reading or writing.
These activities use working memory, which is limited. The brain circuits for working memory are in the prefrontal cortex.
Researchers have thought that the emotions being processed in the amygdala do not affect the attention resources of working memory. But new evidence indicates the circuits that connect the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex are important in determining what is relevant and what is not for whatever activity is currently being undertaken.
For tasks that need a lot of cognitive resources, there is more interference. The more someone needs to concentrate, the more easily they are distracted. Research by Michael Eysenck supports this idea. He and his colleagues showed that people who are anxious prefer to focus on the perceived threat, rather than the task they are performing. This can include internal thoughts or external images. This is also true of worry. Both anxiety and worry use up attention and cognitive resources that are needed for working memory. This decreases performance, especially if a task is complicated.
Pablo Neruda, Chilean poet and diplomat (1904–1973)
“Freedom is not a state; it is an act. It is not some enchanted garden perched high on a distant plateau where we can finally sit down and rest. Freedom is the continuous action we all must take, and each generation must do its part to create an even more fair, more just society.”
— From his 2017 memoir, “Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America”
“You are a light. You are the light. Never let anyone — any person or any force — dampen, dim or diminish your light. Study the path of others to make your way easier and more abundant.”
— From his 2017 memoir, “Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America”
“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”
— A tweet from June 2018
“My dear friends: Your vote is precious, almost sacred. It is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have to create a more perfect union.”
— A 2012 speech in Charlotte, North Carolina
“When you see something that is not right, not just, not fair, you have a moral obligation to say something. To do something. Our children and their children will ask us, ‘What did you do? What did you say?’ For some, this vote may be hard. But we have a mission and a mandate to be on the right side of history.”
Nearly four months into a strict no-visitor rule due to the coronavirus, an assisted living community in North Carolina tapped into the power of social media to get its residents connected with people from all over the world.
After reading this CNN report we thought it would interest some of our readers to take out a pen and address a card to brighten up someone’s life. Isolation isn’t impacting only those at senior homes but many people around the world as the pandemic continues to change the way we are able to connect with each other.
“It has been mentally straining on them not to see family members and loved ones,” Meredith Seals, the chief operating officer of Victorian Senior Care, told CNN on Wednesday. “When you are used to having family there every day and then you can’t, it’s very lonely for them.”
“They are overcome with joy when they see the mail,” Seals said. “It’s good to bring people together as much as we can.”
Since this program started last week, mail and packages for residents have been received from all over the world including Germany, countries in Africa and New Zealand.
“We posted a world map in each facility and they are tracking where they are getting letters from,” she said.
She added that the residents are enjoying getting photos of pets and people. They are working to get a pen pal board added to each facility so residents can hang up pictures they get.”
Here’s some samples:
Here’s the not-so-good news:
A few weeks ago I had a HUGE seizure. I’ve had several mini-seizures since. Scared my humans a LOT so they’re being extra nice to me. My new veterinarian is giving me phenobarbital to hopefully control the seizures. All your prayers are licking good.
My humans are not allowing me to eat carbohydrates – the vet said that was a good idea – and my treats are deeeeeelectible: chicken, egg, cheese, pure beef patty bites. Much tastier than the packaged treats, if I do say so myself.
by Freddie Parker Westerfield
*”The researchers, Benjamin Chapman at the University of Rochester and Lewis Goldberg at the Oregon Research Institute, profiled nearly 800 people in Oregon, USA, most of whom were white, and their average age was 51. The personality test asked participants to rate how accurately 100 different trait adjectives described their personalities, including words such as bashful, kind, neat, relaxed, moody, bright and artistic. The researchers then compared these personality test scores with the same participants’ answers, recorded four years later, to how often they had performed 400 different activities over the last year, from reading a book to singing in the shower.”
Here’s the entire article: Everyday Habits that Reveal our Personalities
Did you know sleep isn’t for your body? Sleep is for your brain. When completely deprived of sleep, for only a few days, research shows that at best our immune system is depressed, we have trouble concentrating or processing information and at worst become paranoid and schizophrenic.
Maui, my cat, was a superb sleeper. No matter where I went in the house I found him stretched out. Whatever magically found its way to the floor (I certainly never put it there) I’d find him asleep on it – pillows, magazines, empty boxes, dirty clothes . . . new clothes. A particular comfy spot was in the middle of a pathway at the top or bottom of the stairs.
Patients who had just been released from the hospital’s psychiatric unit caught me red-handed. I was leading a group therapy session about how important it is to focus on the positive – what they wanted instead of what they did not want. I went on and on explaining that when we think negatively the neo-cortex part of our brains triggers neuro-chemical emotions which correspond to those thoughts.
I smoothly segwayed into explaining the many symptoms of depression. The patients had been listening, and stopped me by not so diplomatically pointing out I was focusing on the negative. Lesson learned! MY lesson learned.
The group decided that instead of learning symptoms of depression, they would create a list of symptoms of happiness. Here’s their list:
Am I lucky, or what! Not only do I live in a house with running water, I live close to the ocean (Pacific to be exact). There’s evidence that some people are especially sensitive to the effects of water and even feel their mood lifted by fresh, humid air.
I am one of the 30%. Even a humid breeze lifts my spirits. I remember getting off a plane in Hawaii, breathing in the fresh, humid breeze and instantly feeling my mood elevate. Perhaps it’s not only the incredible beauty of islands that attracts but the humidity that lifts the spirits?
The atmosphere we breathe, normally is full of positive and negative ions. However, air conditioning, lack of ventilation, and long dry spells remove negative ions from the air. The proportion of negative ions is highest around moving water – storms, oceans, rivers, waterfalls. No wonder I feel so energized at the beach.
Source: Robert E. Thayer, Biopsychology of Mood and Arousal
This post was originally on Max Your Mind. For more from Max Your Mind, click here.
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I’ve been spending a lot of time lately trying to explain My Baha’i spiritual belief that life here on earth IS about learning and growing from difficulties and adversity. Pleasure, happiness breed stagnation since we want to hold onto the status quo. Pain, suffering, fear lead to spiritual, emotional AND even scientific growth.
This video is not just how to find a more satisfying life BUT the story of how Jane McGonigal’s physical and emotional pain led to a fascinating approach to health and healing. Post Traumatic GROWTH! Love it!
“When game designer Jane McGonigal found herself bedridden and suicidal following a severe concussion, she had a fascinating idea for how to get better. She dove into the scientific research and created the healing game, SuperBetter.”
“A traumatic event doesn’t doom us to suffer indefinitely. Instead, we can use it as a springboard to unleash our best qualities and lead happier lives”, Jane McGonigal
My earliest memory was my mother waking me up. It was dark outside and chilly inside. I don’t remember how many times she came into my room to get me out of bed. I do remember pulling the covers over my head and refusing to get up in the dark and cold to get ready for pre-school . . .
Mom was the first to give up our morning battle and I started kindergarten with “learning deficits”. Decades later I continue to not want to greet the new day until it is DAYtime. Morning and me ain’t buddies.
Furthermore, people, like Peggy, who bound out of bed alert and cheerful are jarring at best and obnoxious at worst.
“As anyone who struggles to get out of bed in the morning knows, fighting laziness is a losing battle. From beneath the covers, the world outside seems colder; the commute to work seems longer; the number of e-mails to answer unbearably high. Authority figures may chalk our lethargy to lack of self-discipline, but . . .
Originally posted on Max Your Mind. To see more from Max Your Mind, click here.
I’m “prone” to procrastination. I’m not talking about things that are tedious, difficult, unappealing or boring. I’m talking about things that interest me.
These 3 things often feed my hesitancy to start or finish a project:
*writer and poet GK Chesterton
Luckily animals don’t have the ego that gets us humans in trouble. Animals with “disabilities” prove time and time again that living life, rather than bemoaning what they lack, is yet another important lesson.
I’ve written so many times about my Fibromyalgia (ME)/Chronic Fatigue symptoms that they bore even me. However . . . COVID-19 symptoms and Fibro/Chronic Fatigue symptoms have an eerily similar overlap. Some people who have had COVID-19 are experiencing a slow, protracted recovery with chronic, unremitting exhaustion, body aches, mental fog, strange dermatological sensations or rashes, gastrointestinal issues, irregular heartbeats, depression . .
“COVID-19 may produce a lot of ME/CFS-like cases. Will we be able to use them to understand ME/CFS?
A lot of infections can trigger chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) but in some ways SARS-CoV-2 is different in ways that reminds one of ME/CFS. For one, it’s causing weird symptoms (loss of smell and taste, buzzing, electric, vibrating sensations, red/purple faces, purple toes, pink eye, digestive issues, nausea, dizziness, cognitive issues) that aren’t usually associated with a virus.”
“The director of infection prevention and control at Mount Sinai Hospital attributed the weird fizzing-type sensations to the immune system acting up:
“It leaves something inside you – and you never go back the way you were before.” Everyone reading this should be worried not just of catching/surviving this viral pandemic but what might happen to their life even if they catch it and survive. Because one of the known triggers for ME/CFS is a viral illness. A huge population of ME/CFS patients got the virus Mono and never fully recovered, instead they wound up with ME/CFS.”
“Paul Garner, an infectious disease professor, and Director of the Centre for Evidence Synthesis in Global Health, and Co-ordinating Editor of the Cochrane Infectious Diseases Group, knows infections on both a personal and professional level . During his tropical infectious disease research, he came down with malaria and dengue fever, but nothing he’s encountered has compared to his bout with COVID-19.
In the British Medical Journal Garner, called post COVID-19 a: “a roller coaster of ill health, extreme emotions and utter exhaustion.”
Garner doesn’t appear to be describing post-COVID-19 illness so much as he’s describing a descent into ME/CFS. All the hallmarks are there – the post-exertional “malaise”, the delayed and mind-boggling symptom flares after little exertion, the inability to understand his limits, Garner talked about the “apparition”, a semblance of improved health that kept getting smashed as he innocently overreached.
“People who have a more protracted illness need help to understand and cope with the constantly shifting, bizarre symptoms and their unpredictable course.”
“Some of the longest-suffering Italians are finding themselves in physical and financial uncertainty, unable to shake sickness and fatigue and get back to work.”
“We have seen many cases in which people take a long, long time to recover. It’s not the sickness that lasts for 60 days, it is the convalescence. It’s a very long convalescence.” Alessandro Venturi, director of the San Matteo hospital, Pavia, Italy.”
“Another doctor noted that after all the different, initial symptoms were gone, it was the fatigue that remained. That rang bells. Early studies of the ME/CFS outbreaks came to the same conclusion: the early symptoms were often different but the fatiguing state that ultimately remained was quite consistent.”
The Open Medicine Foundation (OMF) will produce an international effort to understand how COVID-19 turns into ME/CFS. The OMF’s four-site COVID-19 study (Stanford, Harvard, Canada, Sweden) will collect body fluids, do continuous health monitoring using wearables, and collect symptom data over two years. Its genomic, metabolic, and proteomic analysis will attempt at the molecular roots of ME/CFS as it occurs.
“With the NIH otherwise occupied, Open Medicine Foundation’s COVID-19 research effort is our best chance at helping both people with ME/CFS and COVID-19 patients who are having trouble recovering. In fact, it’s the only effort going right now that seeks to directly understand and help the possibly many people, who, after surviving COVID-19, find their lives unalterably changed.”
It is a sad truth that any health crisis will spawn its own pandemic of misinformation.
In the 80s, 90s, and 2000s we saw the spread of dangerous lies about Aids – fromthe belief that the HIV virus was created by a government laboratory to the idea that the HIV tests were unreliable, and even the spectacularly unfounded theory that it could be treated with goat’s milk. These claims increased risky behaviour and exacerbated the crisis.
Now, we are seeing a fresh inundation of fake news – this time around the coronavirus pandemic. From Facebook to WhatsApp, frequently shared misinformation include everything from what caused the outbreak to how you can prevent becoming ill.
In past decades, dangerous lies spread about Aids which exacerbated the crisis (Credit: Getty Images)
We’ve debunked several claims here on BBC Future, including misinformation around how sunshine, warm weather and drinking water can affect the coronavirus. The BBC’s Reality Check team is also checking popular coronavirus claims, and the World Health Organization is keeping a myth-busting pageregularly updated too.
At worst, the ideas themselves are harmful – a recent report from one province in Iran found that more people had died from drinking industrial-strength alcohol, based on a false claim that it could protect you from Covid-19, than from the virus itself. But even seemingly innocuous ideas could lure you and others into a false sense of security, discouraging you from adhering to government guidelines, and eroding trust in health officials and organisations.
There’s evidence these ideas are sticking. One poll by YouGov and the Economist in March 2020 found 13% of Americans believed the Covid-19 crisis was a hoax,for example, while a whopping 49% believed the epidemic might be man-made. And while you might hope that greater brainpower or education would help us to tell fact from fiction, it is easy to find examples of many educated people falling for this false information.
Just consider the writer Kelly Brogan, a prominent Covid-19 conspiracy theorist; she has a degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and studied psychiatry at Cornell University. Yet she has shunned clear evidence of the virus’s danger in countries like China and Italy. She even went as far as to question the basic tenets of germ theory itself while endorsing pseudoscientific ideas.
Kelly Brogan received a medical degree from Cornell University, yet has questioned germ theory and the existence of Covid-19 (Credit: Getty Images)
Even some world leaders – who you would hope to have greater discernment when it comes to unfounded rumours – have been guilty of spreading inaccurate information about the risk of the outbreak and promoting unproven remedies that may do more harm than good, leading Twitter and Facebook to take the unprecedented step of removing their posts.
Fortunately, psychologists are already studying this phenomenon. And what they find might suggest new ways to protect ourselves from lies and help stem the spread of this misinformation and foolish behaviour.
Part of the problem arises from the nature of the messages themselves.
We are bombarded with information all day, every day, and we therefore often rely on our intuition to decide whether something is accurate. As BBC Future has described in the past, purveyors of fake news can make their message feel “truthy” through a few simple tricks, which discourages us from applying our critical thinking skills – such as checking the veracity of its source. As the authors of one paper put it: “When thoughts flow smoothly, people nod along.”
Eryn Newman at Australian National University, for instance, has shown that the simple presence of an image alongside a statement increases our trust in its accuracy – even if it is only tangentially related to the claim. A generic image of a virus accompanying some claim about a new treatment, say, may offer no proof of the statement itself, but it helps us visualise the general scenario. We take that “processing fluency” as a sign that the claim is true.
The mere presence of an image alongside a statement increases our trust in its accuracy (Credit: Getty Images)
For similar reasons, misinformation will include descriptive language or vivid personal stories. It will also feature just enough familiar facts or figures – such as mentioning the name of a recognised medical body – to make the lie within feel convincing, allowing it to tether itself to our previous knowledge.
The more often we see something in our news feed, the more likely we are to think that it’s true – even if we were originally sceptical
Even the simple repetition of a statement – whether the same text, or over multiple messages – can increase the “truthiness” by increasing feelings of familiarity, which we mistake for factual accuracy. So, the more often we see something in our news feed, the more likely we are to think that it’s true – even if we were originally sceptical.
Sharing before thinking
These tricks have long been known by propagandists and peddlers of misinformation, but today’s social media may exaggerate our gullible tendencies. Recent evidence shows that many people reflexively share content without even thinking about its accuracy.
In one study, only about 25% of participants said the fake news was true– but 35% said they would share the headline
Gordon Pennycook, a leading researcher into the psychology of misinformation at the University of Regina, Canada, asked participants to consider a mixture of true and false headlines about the coronavirus outbreak. When they were specifically asked to judge the accuracy of the statements, the participants said the fake news was true about 25% of time. When they were simply asked whether they wouldshare the headline, however, around 35% said they would pass on the fake news – 10% more.
“It suggests people were sharing material that they could have known was false, if they had thought about it more directly,” Pennycook says. (Like much of the cutting-edge research on Covid-19, this research has not yet been peer-reviewed, but a pre-print has been uploaded to the Psyarxiv website.)
Perhaps their brains were engaged in wondering whether a statement would get likes and retweets rather than considering its accuracy. “Social media doesn’t incentivise truth,” Pennycook says. “What it incentivises is engagement.”
Research suggests that some people share material they would know was false if they thought about it more directly (Credit: Getty Images)
Or perhaps they thought they could shift responsibility on to others to judge: many people have been sharing false information with a sort of disclaimer at the top, saying something like “I don’t know if this is true, but…”. They may think that if there’s any truth to the information, it could be helpful to friends and followers, and if it isn’t true, it’s harmless – so the impetus is to share it, not realising that sharing causes harm too.
Whether it’s promises of a homemade remedy or claims about some kind of dark government cover-up, the promise of eliciting a strong response in their followers distracts people from the obvious question.
This question should be, of course: is it true?
Classic psychological research shows that some people are naturally better at overriding their reflexive responses than others. This finding may help us understand why some people are more susceptible to fake news than others.
Researchers like Pennycook use a tool called the “cognitive reflection test” or CRT to measure this tendency. To understand how it works, consider the following question:
Did you answer June? That’s the intuitive answer that many people give – but the correct answer is, of course, Emily.
To come to that solution, you need to pause and override that initial gut response. For this reason, CRT questions are not so much a test of raw intelligence, as a test of someone’s tendency to employ their intelligence by thinking things through in a deliberative, analytical fashion, rather than going with your initial intuitions. The people who don’t do this are often called “cognitive misers” by psychologists, since they may be in possession of substantial mental reserves, but they don’t “spend” them.
Cognitive miserliness renders us susceptible to many cognitive biases, and it also seems to change the way we consume information (and misinformation).
We consume headlines and posts differently depending on our amount of ‘cognitive miserliness’ (Credit: Getty Images)
When it came to the coronavirus statements, for instance, Pennycook found that people who scored badly on the CRT were less discerning in the statements that they believed and were willing to share.
Matthew Stanley, at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, has reported a similar pattern in people’s susceptibility to the coronavirus hoax theories. Remember that around 13% of US citizens believed this theory, which could potentially discourage hygiene and social distancing. “Thirteen percent seems like plenty to make this [virus] go around very quickly,” Stanley says.
Testing participants soon after the original YouGov/Economist poll was conducted, he found that people who scored worse on the CRT were significantly more susceptible to these flawed arguments.
These cognitive misers were also less likely to report having changed their behaviour to stop the disease from spreading – such as handwashing and social distancing.
Stop the spread
Knowing that many people – even the intelligent and educated – have these “miserly” tendencies to accept misinformation at face value might help us to stop the spread of misinformation.
Given the work on truthiness – the idea that we “nod along when thoughts flow smoothly” – organisations attempting to debunk a myth should avoid being overly complex.
To fight misinformation, it’s important to present the facts as simply as possible (Credit: Getty Images)
Instead, they should present the facts as simply as possible – preferably with aids like images and graphs that make the ideas easier to visualise. As Stanley puts it: “We need more communications and strategy work to target those folks who are not as willing to be reflective and deliberative.” It’s simply not good enough to present a sound argument and hope that it sticks.
If they can, these campaigns should avoid repeating the myths themselves. The repetition makes the idea feel more familiar, which could increase perceptions of truthiness. That’s not always possible, of course. But campaigns can at least try to make the true facts more prominent and more memorable than the myths, so they are more likely to stick in people’s minds. (It is for this reason that I’ve given as little information as possible about the hoax theories in this article.)
When it comes to our own online behaviour, we might try to disengage from the emotion of the content and think a bit more about its factual basis before passing it on. Is it based on hearsay or hard scientific evidence? Can you trace it back to the original source? How does it compare to the existing data? And is the author relying on the common logical fallacies to make their case?
One thing we can do is simply think about a post’s factual basis before we pass it on (Credit: Getty Images)
These are the questions that we should be asking – rather than whether or not the post is going to start amassing likes, or whether it “could” be helpful to others. And there is some evidence that we can all get better at this kind of thinking with practice.
Pennycook suggests that social media networks could nudge their users to be more discerning with relatively straightforward interventions. In his experiments, he found that asking participants to rate the factual accuracy of a single claim primed participants to start thinking more critically about other statements, so that they were more than twice as discerning about the information they shared.
In practice, it might be as simple as a social media platform providing the occasional automated reminder to think twice before sharing, though careful testing could help the companies to find the most reliable strategy, he says.
There is no panacea. Like our attempts to contain the virus itself, we are going to need a multi-pronged approach to fight the dissemination of dangerous and potentially life-threatening misinformation.
And as the crisis deepens, it will be everyone’s responsibility to stem that spread.”
David Robson is the author of The Intelligence Trap, which examines why smart people act foolishly and the ways we can all make wiser decisions. He is @d_a_robson on Twitter.
As an award-winning science site, BBC Future is committed to bringing you evidence-based analysis and myth-busting stories around the new coronavirus. You can read more of our Covid-19 coverage here. https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200406-why-smart-people-believe-coronavirus-myths?xtor=ES-213-[BBC%20Features%20Newsletter]-2020April17-[Future%7c+Button]
On my fourth zoom meeting I kept my video off. It was strangely calming not to have others see where I was looking or looking at me.
No matter how many times I’ve written about the level of fatigue I feel it still seems unbelievable, inconceivable that such a thing could exist. But it’s real. I have Post Exertional Malaise – Malaise being a fancy French word for what I experience as exhaustion. It’s a symptom that some people experience with fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue. Without going into the theories of what causes it – any energy expenditure – physical, mental, emotional, including intense focus – exhausts me, often for days.
Zoom meetings are now added to the list of what exhausts me. Distractions, during in-person conversations which are relegated to background, swirl around in the foreground of my brain: The small audio delay contributes to people talking over each other or weird silences, visual cues are distorted or magnified, people fiddling with controls, some sitting too close, some too far from cameras, background noise . . . exhaust me but I thought too weird to admit to anyone. judy
What’s ‘Zoom fatigue’? Here’s why video calls can be so exhausting
by Ryan W. Miller
“As social distancing remains in effect across the country during the coronavirus pandemic, people are moving from one video call to another. But there may be an unintended effect, mental health and communications experts warn: “Zoom fatigue,” or the feeling of tiredness, anxiousness or worry with yet another video call.”
Why are we all experiencing ‘Zoom fatigue’?
“From having to focus on 15 people at once in gallery view or worrying about how you appear as you speak, a number of things may cause someone to feel anxious or worried on a video call. Any of these factors require more focus and mental energy than a face-to-face meeting might”, said Vaile Wright, the American Psychological Association’s director of clinical research and quality.
“It’s this pressure to really be on and be responsive,” she said.
According to Jeremy Bailenson, the founding director of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, the platforms naturally put us in a position that is unnatural. A combination of having prolonged eye contact and having someone’s enlarged face extremely close to you forces certain subconscious responses in humans.
“Our brains have evolved to have a very intense reaction when you have a close face to you,” he said.
During normal, in-person conversations, “eye contact moves in a very intricate dance, and we’re very good at it,” Bailenson said. When one person looks one way, another changes where they look. A small eyebrow raise from someone at one end of the room can trigger a glance between two people on the other. But typically, we don’t stare into our colleagues’ eyes, up close on a computer screen, for an hour at a time.
So much of human communication is through these nonverbal cues that can be either lost or distorted in a video conference.
“In a way, we’re closer but we’re still communicating through this weird filter, so it gets tiring to get to the real stuff through this filter,” Degges-White said.
For video calls with old friends or virtual family reunions, the forced structure can create different challenges.
“A lot of us are thinking I want social stuff to be fun and having to be locked in front of this computer … it’s just not how I want to be spending my time,” Bailenson said.
Degges-White described it creating a structure to conversation like email. One person speaks and everyone takes their turn and waits to reply.
“That’s not normally the way we do social interactions,” she said. “It’s not that easy give and take.” Side conversations are lost. Some people who are naturally reserved may never get a word in. Others may get distracted by people in their house.
The context of this happening during the coronavirus pandemic can’t be lost either, Wright said. We’re worried about loved ones but apart from them physically.
How do you combat the ‘Zoom fatigue’?
There are thousands of books and articles on how to be organized. I’ve read them. I understand them. I don’t follow them.
I rarely keep a things-to-do list. I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda person. My process is divergent, I am a piler not a filer, not logical and I used to think there was something wrong with me. (jw)
“It’s all too easy to fall into this trap. Many of us feel embarrassed about our cluttered desks, for example, assuming that they are an externalization of our internal chaos. Yet emptying your desk may, ironically, clutter your mind more than ever. All those tasks—read that book, reply to that letter, pay that bill—still exist. But lacking physical reminders that you trust, you may be forced to rely on your subconscious to remind you of all these incomplete tasks. Your subconscious will do a pretty good job of that: it will remind you every few minutes. An empty desk can mean an anxious mind.”
“Nor are empty-deskers necessarily better organized in their work lives. In 2001, Steve Whittaker and Julia Hirschberg, then researchers at AT&T Labs, studied the behavior (pdf) of “filers”, who scrupulously file away their paperwork, and “pilers” who let it accumulate on their desk and any other convenient horizontal surface.”
“. . . the researchers discovered that the “filers” accumulated bloated archives full of useless chaff. Whittaker has a term for this: “premature filing.” That’s what happens when we take a new document and promptly file it in a fit of tidy-mindedness before we really understand what it means, how it fits into our ongoing commitments, and whether we need to keep it at all. The result: duplicate folders, folders within folders, folders holding just a single document, and filing cabinets that serve as highly-structured trash cans.”
“Meanwhile, the “pilers” flourished. They were much more likely to throw paperwork away—after all, it was in plain sight on their desks—and when they did file something, they were more likely to understand it. Paradoxically, the messy workers had lean, practical and well-used archives. Their organizational system was messy, but it worked.”
“It’s possible to over-structure your life in other ways, too. As the psychologist Marc Wittman told Quartz in August, a partly or wholly unplanned holiday tends to feel longer and fuller than a holiday in which every decision has been made in advance. Critical decisions have to be made in the moment, which means you pay more attention to what’s happening and have richer memories after the fact. But to carry out Wittman’s advice, of course, means letting go and taking a risk. Switching off autopilot always carries an element of danger. That’s why it works.”
“One fascinating study conducted in the early 1980s examined the well-worn question of how structured one should make a calendar. Some people think that if you want to get something done, you should block out a time to do it on the calendar. Others think that the calendar should be reserved only for fixed appointments, and that everything else should be a movable feast”
“The study, run by the psychologists, Daniel Kirschenbaum, Laura Humphrey and Sheldon Malett explored this question, asked undergraduates to participate in a study-skills course. Some were advised to set out monthly goals and study activities; others were told to plan activities and goals in much more detail, day by day.”
*Source: Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives by Tim Harford, Financial Times columnist.
Originally posted on Max Your Mind. Click here to see more from Max Your Mind