As the year winds to a close, gifts and giving are foremost in many people's minds. And now, two new neuroscience studies suggest that our brains prompt us to act more like Santa than Scrooge.In one study, researchers scanned participants' brains to identify connections between generous behavior and brain activity. In the other, scientists dampened activity in areas of the brain associated with impulse control, to see if that would alter a person's empathetic actions.The findings from both studies led the researchers to conclude that human behavior is guided more by empathy and generosity than by selfishness.In addition, the findings suggest a path toward treating people with conditions that lower their ability to understand others: Someday, people whose social cognition is impaired could be helped by treatments that regulate the neural pathways that enhance or restrict their empathetic feelings, said Dr. Marco Iacoboni, a co-author of both studies and a professor of psychiatry at the … [Read more...] about Your Giving Brain: Are Humans ‘Hardwired’ for Generosity?
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Americans really do love to work, it seems, while Europeans are much happier if they skip burning the midnight oil in favor of leisure. That's according to a new study finding longer work hours make Europeans unhappy while Americans get a very slight (albeit not statistically significant) bliss boost from the extra grind. "Those who work longer hours in Europe are less happy than those who work shorter hours, but in the U.S. it's the other way around," said study author Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn, a clinical assistant professor of public policy at The University of Texas at Dallas. "The working hours' category does not have a very big impact on the probability of happiness of Americans." [Happiest States' List]The study, based on survey data, can't tease out whether work causes happiness or unhappiness, though the researchers speculate the effect has to do with expectations and how a person measures success.Okulicz-Kozaryn used surveys of European and American attitudes for the study. … [Read more...] about Who’s Happier: Europeans or Americans?
Many people say they live happy and healthy lives when they are involved in meaningful relationships, but it's unclear how people achieve these close and caring relationships, and how such bonds promote well-being.In a new review that experts call a "gigantic contribution" to the field, scientists examined how relationships can encourage — or thwart — personal thriving.Relationships can help people cope with stress and adversity, and enable them to thrive as they achieve goals and cultivate talents, said Brooke Feeney, an associate professor of social psychology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. [5 Ways Relationships Are Good for Your Health]"I would define a thriving person as someone who is happy, [and] pursuing and progressing toward meaningful life goals," Feeney told Live Science in an email.Thriving people often have purpose and meaning in life, a positive regard for themselves and others, healthy physical and mental health, and deep meaningful human … [Read more...] about The Scientific Secret to Strong Relationships
Everyone has certain likes, dislikes, quirks and idiosyncrasies — all the qualities that make up your personality, the things that make you you. That everyone has unique personalities makes life more interesting (or, sometimes, more difficult). But where do personalities come from, and why are they so different?Over the last 25 years, psychologists have found that personalities coalesce around five basic traits, dubbed the Big Five. Everyone can be described as having varying levels of agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, extroversion and openness to experience. Contrary to common perception, people aren't confined to certain personality types. Usually, no one is entirely an extrovert or an introvert, or a total neat freak or a slob. While a minority may be at the extreme ends of a trait, most people are somewhere in the middle. "We know conclusively from the research that people just aren't organized into types," said Christopher Soto, a psychologist at … [Read more...] about Why Do People Have Different Personalities?
Being the oldest child in the family has its perks: later bedtimes, no hand-me-downs, and, according to a new study, a higher IQ.The study, detailed in the June 22 issue of the journal Science, analyzed the IQs of nearly 250,000 Norwegian 18- and 19-year-old draftees and found that older siblings had higher scores than younger siblings.Another study, by the same authors of the new Science study but published recently in the journal Intelligence, looked at more than 100,000 Norwegian brothers and found that first-borns on average had an IQ 2.3 points higher than their younger brothers (the IQs were all taken when the brothers were 18 or 19, so they compare the older brother’s score at that age to the younger brother’s score when he reached that same age).“These are probably the two most important studies on birth order and intelligence in the last 75 years,” said psychologist Frank Sulloway of the University of California, Berkeley, who wrote an analysis of the … [Read more...] about Study: Older Siblings Have Higher IQs