Posts Tagged TV

How to make time stand still


It often feels like there just aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish all the things we want to accomplish, let alone find a moment to relax. The demands of work and social life, combined with our basic needs for sleep, food, and exercise, can quickly add up and overflow, producing the sense that time is constantly slipping away and we’re constantly running to catch up. Time may be limited, but it doesn’t have to always feel that way. New research suggests that our state of mind can change the way we perceive and experience time, and in turn, make us happier and more giving.

At certain moments in your life, you may have had the feeling that time stood still. Maybe it was the first time you saw the Grand Canyon, or the moment you realized you were falling in love. These experiences are often those of awe, an emotion elicited by perceptions of vastness (either in size or significance) and a need to alter one’s existing way of seeing the world to accommodate this new perception. In a
forthcoming paper, researchers Melanie Rudd, Kathleen Vohs, and Jennifer Aaker examined whether the emotion of awe, compared to happiness and neutral states, might reduce people’s sense of time pressure and consequently make them more willing to volunteer their time, choose experiences over material objects, and enjoy greater life satisfaction.

To examine these hypotheses, the researchers conducted three experiments. In the first experiment, participants started off by unscrambling sentences like “not available enough time much” so that everyone would start off at the same time-pressured baseline. Next, participants were randomly assigned to watch either an awe-eliciting or happiness-eliciting commercial on TV. The awe-inducing commercial showed people encountering images such waterfalls and whales on a city street, whereas the happiness-inducing commercial showed a parade with rainbow confetti and celebration. Finally participants filled out a survey, embedded in which was a measure of time perception with items such as “Time is boundless” and “I have lots of time in which I can get things done.”As predicted, participants who were in a state of awe, compared to those induced to feel happiness, felt that time was more expansive.

What good does an expansive sense of time do? The researchers examined this question in the next two experiments. In the second experiment, participants wrote about a personal experience of awe (in the awe condition) or happiness (in the happiness condition). A measure of impatience was used to assess time perception, followed by a measure of willingness to donate time or money. Awe-induced participants felt less impatient, and they were also more willing to to donate their time to help others (the resource that awe helped to replenish), but not more likely to donate money (which is less relevant to time). A statistical test of mediation showed that participants who were in a state of awe were more willing to give their time because they felt like they had more of it.

In the final experiment, participants read either an awe-inspiring or neutral story, followed by questionnaires assessing time perception, life satisfaction, and hypothetical choices about purchasing either experiences or material goods (e.g., Broadway tickets or a watch). Awe again led to expanded time perceptions, which is turn increased perceived life satisfaction and interest in experiences rather than material goods.

These results suggest that one way to feel like we have all the time in the world (even if we don’t) is to do things that inspire awe. It’s easy to get caught up in the routines of everyday life and miss out on potentially wondrous experiences, some of which may be right under our noses. The mere fact of our existence, for one, can be enough to inspire awe (see this previous post). Awe may not be helpful in all situations, the researchers note–sometimes it’s a good thing to feel like time is limited, so that we can get down to business when necessary. But more often than not, we could all probably use a little more awe. Life may be short, but that doesn’t mean we can’t feel like it’s endless, once in awhile.

Want an easy way to feel more awe right now? Watch the Olympics. Here is a slow motion clip of McKayla Maroney flying off the vault in the team competition (her “not impressed” expression may be all over the internet, but we are impressed!)

Photo by Lionoche.

Reference:

Rudd, M., Vohs, K.D., & Aaker, J. (2012). Awe expands people’s perception of time, alters decision-making, and enhances well-being. Psychological Science

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Keep the TV or Computer on At Night? You’re at Greater Risk for Depression


Keep the TV or Computer on At Night? You are at Greater Risk for DepressionIf hamsters are anything like their human counterparts, keeping your TV or computer on at night while you sleep in the same room could not only disrupt your sleep — it could lead to clinical depression.

Any kind of light in your bedroom — a streetlight, a TV, likely even a nightlight — may lead to the depressive symptoms, if exposed to such light for at least a month.

While hamsters exposed to light at night for four weeks showed evidence of depressive symptoms, those symptoms essentially disappeared after about two weeks if they returned to normal lighting conditions.

Even changes in the brain that occurred after hamsters lived with chronic light at night reversed themselves after returning to a more normal light cycle.

These findings add to the growing evidence that suggest chronic exposure to artificial light at night may play some role in the rising rates of depression in humans during the past 50 years, said Tracy Bedrosian, lead author of the study and doctoral student in neuroscience at Ohio State University.

The good news is that the effects of sleep loss are readily reversed with some normal, completely-dark sleep. Use your TV’s sleep timer function to turn it off after you go to sleep. Shut down your computer before going to bed.

This study is the latest in a series out of Nelson’s lab that have linked chronic exposure to light at night to depression and obesity in animal models.

The new study found that one particular protein found in the brain of hamsters — and humans — may play a key role in how light at night leads to depression.

They found that blocking effects of that protein, called tumor necrosis factor, prevented the development of depressive-like symptoms in hamsters even when they were exposed to light at night.

The study involved two experiments using female Siberian hamsters, which had their ovaries removed to ensure that hormones produced in the ovary would not interfere with the results.

In the first experiment, half of the hamsters spent eight weeks in a standard light-dark cycle of 16 hours of light (150 lux) and 8 hours of total darkness each day. The other half spent the first four weeks with 16 hours of normal daylight (150 lux) and 8 hours of dim light — 5 lux, or the equivalent of having a television on in a darkened room.

Then, these hamsters were moved back to a standard light cycle for either one week, two weeks or four weeks before testing began.

They were then given a variety of behavior tests. Results showed that hamsters exposed to chronic dim light at night showed less total activity during their active period each day when compared to those in standard lighting conditions.

Those hamsters exposed to dim light also showed greater depressive symptoms than did the others– such as less interest in drinking sugar water that they usually enjoy.

But within two weeks of returning to a standard light cycle, hamsters exposed to dim night light showed no more depressive-like symptoms than did hamsters that always had standard lighting. In addition, they returned to normal activity levels.

After the behavioral testing, the hamsters were sacrificed and the researchers studied a part of their brains called the hippocampus, which plays a key role in depressive disorders.

Findings showed that hamsters exposed to dim light showed a variety of changes associated with depression.

Most importantly, hamsters that lived in dim light showed increased expression of the gene that produces tumor necrosis factor. TNF is one of a large family of proteins called cytokines — chemical messengers that are mobilized when the body is injured or has an infection. These cytokines cause inflammation in their effort to repair an injured or infected area of the body. However, this inflammation can be damaging when it is constant, as happens in hamsters exposed to dim light at night.

“Researchers have found a strong association in people between chronic inflammation and depression,” said Nelson, who is a member of Ohio State’s Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research.

“That’s why it is very significant that we found this relationship between dim light at night and increased expression of TNF.”

In addition, results showed that hamsters that lived in dim light had a significantly reduced density of dendritic spines — hairlike growths on brain cells which are used to send chemical messages from one cell to another.

Changes such as this have been linked to depression, Bedrosian said.

However, hamsters that were returned to a standard light-dark cycle after four weeks of dim light at night saw their TNF levels and even their density of dendritic spines return essentially to normal.

“Changes in dendritic spines can happen very rapidly in response to environmental factors,” Bedrosian said.

In a second experiment, the researchers tested just how important TNF might be. Results showed that hamsters exposed to dim light at night did not show any more depressive-like symptoms than standard-light hamsters if they were given XPro1595. However, the drug did not seem to prevent the reduction of dendritic spine density in hamsters exposed to dim light.

These results provide further evidence of the role TNF may play in the depressive symptoms seen in hamsters exposed to dim light. But the fact that XPro1595 did not affect dendritic spine density means that more needs to be learned about exactly how TNF works, Nelson said.

Source: Ohio State University

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mind less eating


A food psychologist has found that people overeat unconsciously, due to numerous factors. Studies show that larger plates result in larger servings. Also, watching television while eating leads to people eating 40 percent more food.

America is a nation of over-eaters. But according to one food expert, the reason we eat too much is all in our heads.

Busy lifestyles cause many people to over-eat without noticing. A problem Brian Wansink, Ph.D., a behavioral scientist at the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, calls “mindless eating.”

“We’re a nation of mindless eaters. We do so many things during the day that when it comes to food we can just nibble and nibble and nibble, and eat and eat and eat.” Dr. Wansink said.

Dr. Wansink says the mind is to blame for over eating, not always the stomach. And just choosing a different plate could stop over indulgence.

“Our studies show the bigger the plate is, the more people serve, typically to the level of about 25 to 28 percent more,” Dr. Wansink said.

Six ounces of pasta on an eight-inch plate, looks normal. But that same serving on a bigger plate barely looks like an appetizer — causing many people to dish out more. “The best way to mindlessly eat less is to get rid of your large plates, or get rid of your large serving bowls,” Dr. Wansink said.

Distracted television viewers also don’t pay attention to what’s in front of them. Studies show over 40 percent more food is eaten while watching TV.

“We often end up eating more because we simply eat to the pace of the program, or we eat until the program is over.” Dr. Wansink said.

Brian has made a career watching how people behave around food. His best advice? Don’t be fooled by hidden dangers of food and packaging.

BACKGROUND: Brian Wansink is a food psychologist at Cornell University who focuses on the how and why people eat. For instance, he can tell you if you get more beer from a tall skinny glass or a short fat glass. His Food and Brand Lab tries to help people eat more nutritiously and to help control how much they eat. An additional focus is on increasing the acceptance of soy foods and the consumption of fruits and vegetables. He oversees a series of test kitchens, restaurants and cooperating grocery stores to understand how consumers “choose and use” foods.

SIZE (AND SHAPE) MATTERS: Wansink and his colleagues conducted two studies of 167 people demonstrating that both children and adults pour and consume more juice when given a short, wide glass compared to those given a tall, narrow glass – although they believed the opposite to be true. Those with the short wide glasses poured 76% more juice than those with the tall slender glasses. The bias is caused by a visual illusion known as the vertical-horizontal illusion: we tend to focus on heights instead of widths, so we are more likely to over-pour into wide glasses while thinking we poured very little because of the shorter height.

FAT-FREE ISN’T CALORIE-FREE: Wansink has also found that people will eat more of a snack – even one they don’t like very much – if it is labeled “low fat.” IN fact, low-fat cookies, for example, only have about 30% fewer calories than regular cookies, while low-fat granola only has 12% fewer calories. In one study, people given low-fat granola ate 35% more – 192 extra calories – than those who thought they were eating regular granola. The low-fat label leads people to mindlessly overeat a product, while believing they are being “health-conscious.” Wansink’s advice: if you’re going to indulge, eat something you truly enjoy – just eat half as much of it.

SEE WHAT YOU EAT: The human stomach isn’t designed to keep accurate track of how much we have eaten. In fact, it takes about 20 minutes after we eat before our stomachs register that we are “full.” Visual cues are critical to controlling our much we eat, according to Wansink. Students participating in an all-you-can-eat chicken wing buffet ate continually if their tables were continually cleared, because they couldn’t see how many they’d already consumed. Here’s a handy tip for your next buffet: people who put everything on their plate before they sit down to eat – including dessert – eat about 14% less than people who take smaller amounts and go back for seconds or thirds. He also advises people not to eat snacks out of the box; put it into a separate dish and leave the box in the kitchen. You will eat less if you can see how much you’ve already eaten.

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