Birds of a feather really do flock together
Plus, the relationship between creativity and empathy
“Most people are very compassionate towards others and not compassionate toward themselves.” –psychologist Kristin Neff
The rules of attraction. Do opposites attract, or do birds of a feather flock together? New research suggests the latter. Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder analyzed data on thousands of couples, looking at traits like personality, political leanings and religious views. For between 82% and 89% of traits analyzed, partners were more likely than not to share those traits. Interestingly, this was true even for traits that weren’t based on preference, like how many sexual partners a person had. “These findings suggest that even in situations where we feel like we have a choice about our relationships, there may be mechanisms happening behind the scenes of which we aren't fully aware,” said lead author Tanya Horwitz.
Outside the box. In a recent study, a group of researchers explored whether there’s a relationship between creativity and empathy. “We can never know for sure what’s happening inside another person’s head,” explained study author Stephen Anderson. “We thought this might mean that people sometimes take creative liberty and explore different novel possibilities when they imagine other minds.” In a series of experiments, researchers tested the relationship between creativity and empathy by having people engage in tasks where they had to interpret another person’s emotions. In some cases, volunteers were encouraged to be creative in their assessments, and in other cases, they were encouraged to be empathetic. The researchers found that empathy enhanced creative tasks, but the opposite was not true. On another task, higher creativity scores were linked to lower empathic concern and less helpful behavior. “When we asked people to rate how empathetic they felt for a specific person in need, people who thought about this person’s emotional state more creatively also reported feeling less empathy for this person,” said Anderson. Talking about the real-world implications, he added that “people who enjoy thinking creatively might be more likely to show empathy if they view it as a potential creative outlet.” But it’s also possible that creative empathy can backfire. “If I’m too focused on creatively exploring another’s emotions, am I less focused on figuring out what the person is actually feeling?”
Savor it. Sometimes our negative emotions can keep us from savoring the good things in our lives. But there’s a solution to this common problem: the art of savoring. Listen to learn more.
ON THE HIDDEN BRAIN PODCAST
Being Kind to Yourself: Self-criticism is often seen as a virtue. But psychologist Kristin Neff says there’s a better path to self-improvement — self-compassion. She says people who practice self-compassion are more conscientious and more likely to take responsibility for their mistakes.
ON THE MY UNSUNG HERO PODCAST
Ethan Kross’ Story: Ethan had a habit of fiddling with his wedding ring. One day, it slipped off his finger — and onto the subway tracks.
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.
ON HIDDEN BRAIN+
Your Questions Answered: Laura Carstensen on Aging: Are older people happier than their middle-aged or younger counterparts? Stanford psychologist Laura Carstensen, who studies aging, says research suggests the answer is yes. Laura joined us recently to talk about this surprising finding in an episode called "The Best Years of Your Life." Today, she returns to the show to answer listeners' questions and share more of her research on what it means to live well as we age.
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FROM OUR LISTENERS
I add 5 to 9 and get 2. What am I?
LAST WEEK’S PUZZLE
What five-letter English word doesn’t change in pronunciation even when you remove four of its letters?
The answer: Queue