A Surprising Source of Social Connection
Plus, what do strangers know about you?
“Find the grief journey that works for you.” - Lucy Hone
Cry your heart out. When you see someone in tears, how do you respond? A new study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology looks at crying on a global scale. The authors showed photos of people in tears to volunteers in 41 countries. They found that when volunteers saw someone crying, they typically wanted to comfort that person. Makes sense, right? But a deeper takeaway is that tears, in addition to providing emotional release to us as individuals, may have a social purpose as well, reinforcing the connections between us. “These findings suggest that tears can function as social glue, providing one possible explanation why emotional crying persists into adulthood,” the authors write. So don’t be afraid to bust out the waterworks, friends.
Do I know you? Think about your favorite actor, writer, or, um, podcast host. You may not literally know this person, but maybe you feel like you almost know them. Researchers refer to this sort of connection as a parasocial relationship. A new paper in the journal Nature explores a similar idea: “asymmetric” social ties. In a series of lab experiments, researchers shared information about a stranger with participants. After the volunteers learned this information, they thought the stranger also knew them better than they did. “When people know more about others, they think others know more about them,” the authors write. They then applied these findings in a field experiment in New York City. They shared mundane information about neighborhood police officers with people living in that neighborhood. They found that residents who received the information were more likely to think that the police would know if they committed a crime, and that this in turn may have contributed to a lower local crime rate.
We’ve all been in situations where we experience mixed emotions. Maybe you’ve felt both joy and sadness during a big life decision, such as whether to purchase a home or accept a job offer. Or maybe you’ve experienced mixed feelings about the ways the COVID-19 pandemic has shaped your life. Psychologist Naomi Rothman says that while these feelings of ambivalence are uncomfortable, they can also serve us in important ways.
ON THE HIDDEN BRAIN PODCAST
April 4: Researcher Lucy Hone’s understanding of grief was transformed by a devastating experience in her own life. We learn the powerful techniques she used to cope with tragedy.
ON THE MY UNSUNG HERO PODCAST
April 5: Emmanuel is having trouble moving furniture into his first adult apartment when a stranger comes to his aid.
April 7: Sunita Kramer is getting on the train when her daughter starts to fall onto the tracks. A stranger saves her daughter’s 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.
How many faces do you see in this picture?
LAST WEEK’S PUZZLE
What has a head and a tail but no body?
The answer: A coin
FROM THE TWITTERATI…
A MOMENT OF JOY
A thread of photos of the world’s most beautiful sports venues.
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