Discover more from Hidden Brain
A small but effective way to fight loneliness
Plus, the counterintuitive appeal of social media
“When dissonance is present, in addition to trying to reduce it, the person will actively avoid situations and information which would likely increase the dissonance.” – psychologist Leon Festinger, whose work is featured in this week’s episode.
The gift of gifts. Loneliness has become a real problem – some even call it an epidemic. But perhaps there are small, everyday actions we can take to fight loneliness. For example, a recent study found that giving a small gift made people feel less lonely. Participants were asked to pick someone they knew to receive a $10 gift card. They had thirty minutes to think about who that person might be and also what kind of gift card to give (i.e. Starbucks, Amazon). Other people in the study were given a $10 gift card to keep for themselves. The researchers measured people’s mood and loneliness levels before and after the task. The gift-givers reported a bigger mood boost and a bigger reduction in loneliness than the other groups and a control group. The effect wasn’t limited to gift cards, either. The results rang true when people simply wrote letters of gratitude. It may not be a long-term solution to the epidemic of loneliness, but it seems there are big benefits to these small acts of connection.
Toxic waste. Would we spend less time on social media if it were more sociable?
It seems counterintuitive, but the toxic nature of social media may be part of its appeal. In a study, researchers recruited people to download a browser extension that detected “toxic” content on social media sites. For some people, the browser extension hid certain content the tool deemed toxic. And this made a significant difference in how people used those platforms. “Lowering exposure to toxicity reduced content consumption on Facebook by 23% relative to the mean,” the study reported. “We also report a 9.2% drop in ad consumption on Twitter.” What’s more, their intervention also reduced the toxic content people were posting on both platforms, which the researchers said suggested “evidence of toxicity being contagious.”
Persuade me. Think back to the last time someone convinced you to do something you didn’t want to do, or to spend money you didn’t want to spend. What techniques did that person use to persuade you? Listen to learn more.
ON THE HIDDEN BRAIN PODCAST
Jan 30: When we want something very badly, it can be hard to see warning signs that might be obvious to other people. This week, we bring you two stories about how easy it can be to believe in a false reality — even when the facts don’t back us up.
ON THE MY UNSUNG HERO PODCAST
Jan 31: Nancy was terrified after her husband, Tom, suffered a series of fainting spells. When she asked his doctor what they should do next, the doctor's answer stunned her — and changed her life.
Don’t forget to send us the story of your unsung hero! Record a voice memo on your phone and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You throw a ball as hard as you can and it comes back to you. Yet it doesn’t bounce off anything, there is nothing attached to it, and no one else catches or throws it back to you. How did this happen?
LAST WEEK’S PUZZLE
A farmer wants to cross a river and take with him a wolf, a goat, and a cabbage. He has a boat, but it can only fit himself plus either the wolf, the goat, or the cabbage. If the wolf and the goat are alone on one shore, the wolf will eat the goat. If the goat and the cabbage are alone on the shore, the goat will eat the cabbage. How can the farmer bring the wolf, the goat, and the cabbage across the river without anything being eaten?
The answer: First, the farmer takes the goat across. The farmer returns alone and then takes the wolf across, but returns with the goat. Then the farmer takes the cabbage across, leaving it with the wolf and returning alone to get the goat.
FROM THE TWITTERATI…
A MOMENT OF JOY
Ever wondered what Google would have looked like in the 1980s?
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