Why you shouldn't eat all your Halloween candy at once

Plus, how stories can restore us

“Sea level rise is a reality that's not going to be avoided by eliminating CO2 or methane emissions.” — Kristina Hill

BRAIN WAVES

  • Hedonic adaptation, interrupted. In the tastiest study we’ve ever heard of, psychologist Elizabeth Dunn brought students into a lab and asked them to eat chocolate. Dunn then sent them home and asked some students to abstain from eating chocolate for a week, while giving other students two pounds of chocolate and telling them to eat as much of it as they (comfortably) could. Some students weren’t given any chocolate-related instructions at all. In a follow-up experiment, the students who indulged didn’t enjoy chocolate as much the next time around and also experienced less of a mood boost from the tasty treat. The other groups, however, enjoyed it just as much as the first time they came into the lab. “This little, tiny finding kind of captures the sad reality of the human experience,” Dunn told us. “The more we have something, the less we tend to appreciate it.” The good news is, you can make this work in your favor. We tend to think of abstaining as a way to avoid pleasure, but a periodic break from your favorite indulgences — sweets, coffee, cocktails — might help you enjoy them more. As Dunn put it, “What this suggests is that taking a break from things that we enjoy can actually sort of renew our capacity to appreciate them.” Still, be wary of separating us from our Snickers!

  • The restorative potential of stories. Stories help us make sense of the world. They can also make a bad situation more bearable. Researchers in Brazil worked with children aged four to eleven who were staying in a hospital. They assigned a caretaker to play with one group of children, while another group was assigned a storyteller. The researchers then measured the kids’ level of cortisol, a hormone related to stress, and oxytocin, a hormone related to pleasure. Both groups benefited from the interaction, but the kids who were read a story had lower levels of cortisol and higher levels of oxytocin. Kids in that group also described their hospital stay with more positive words and reported their pain levels dropped nearly twice as much as the other group. These findings “support evolutionary theories of storytelling and demonstrate its physiological and psychological effects” under stressful conditions, the researchers concluded. One more point for the power of stories.

  • We think we know what will make us happy: more money, a better job, love. But happiness doesn’t always work that way. Why happiness often slips through our fingers, and how to savor — and stretch out — our joys.  Listen to learn more.

ON THE HIDDEN BRAIN PODCAST

Oct 25: We’ve grown accustomed to thinking of climate change as an enemy we must urgently defeat. But the evidence seems increasingly clear that we can’t escape catastrophe. What does this mean for how we think about the existential threat of climate change? How can we reframe the way we think about life on a changing planet?

Nov 1: Many organizations struggle to gain traction in a crowded marketplace. They can't decide - should they invest in more marketing, better products or hiring? Very often these efforts fail to move the needle. In the first episode of our new Work 2.0 series, we find out that may be because most organizations focus on the things that can move them forward instead of what’s holding them back. 

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ON THE MY UNSUNG HERO PODCAST

Oct 28: In 2013, Alie Ward is having a terrible year. Then she gets a Facebook message from a stranger, whose simple act of kindness changes everything.

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MIND GAMES

A couple has six daughters. Each daughter has one brother. How many people are in the family?

LAST WEEK’S PUZZLE

You open a book and two pages face you. If the product of the two page numbers is 3192, what are the two page numbers? 

The answer: 56 and 57.

FROM THE TWITTERATI…

A MOMENT OF JOY

Have an idea for Hidden Brain? A story you want to share with us? Send an email to ideas@hiddenbrain.org. And if you’d like to support our work, you can do so here. Listen to us on Spotify, Apple or your favorite podcast platform.