The Amazing Impact Of Reaching Out To Your Old Friends

The Amazing Impact Of Reaching Out To Your Old Friends

Quick Hits
Daily brief research updates from the cognitive sciences

friend social brain

A few weeks ago a friend I hadn’t seen for about 10 years sent me a message and asked if I had time to meet up. I was elated. “Sure,” I immediately messaged back, “when and where?!”

It was a surprise, but a really pleasant surprise, I was excited, elated, and thoroughly enjoyed seeing him again, catching up on all the latest news and reminiscing on old times. We probably all know that. And this is precisely what a group of researchers found out led by Peggy Liu in a study published by the American Psychological Association.

But the interesting thing is not that we enjoy reconnecting with old friends is that there are different perceptions. Liu et al. ran series of experiments to judge how people felt being reached out to and found that:

  • Those reaching out significantly underestimated the positive impact
  • Those being reached out to really appreciated being reached out to
  • The greater the surprise the greater the impact
  • The greater the previous connection the greater the appreciation

This is important because having lived in different places and also knowing a lot of people who have moved to different places it is easy to lose touch but also to feel trepidation at contacting old friends. This shows that you should do it. Those surprise contacts are really appreciated – and both of you will reap the benefits of this.

Of course, we also know that social connections are very good for mental and physical health so this also shouldn’t be underestimated and though this is not the same as having good social connections in everyday life, this does give a personal boost to mood and satisfaction.

So, next time you remember an old friend, just reach out to them, I am sure it will be appreciated, and according to this research, a lot more than you might think at first!

Andy Habermacher

Andy Habermacher

Andy is author of leading brains Review, Neuroleadership, and multiple other books. He has been intensively involved in writing and research into neuroleadership and is considered one of Europe’s leading experts. He is also a well-known public speaker, speaking on the brain and human behaviour.

Andy is also a masters athlete (middle distance running) and competes regularly at international competitions (and holds a few national records in his age category).

twitter / LinkedIn

Reference

Liu, Peggy J., SoYon Rim, Lauren Min, and Kate E. Min. 
The Surprise of Reaching Out: Appreciated More than We Think. 
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Forthcoming), 2022
DOI: 10.1037/pspi0000402

More Quick Hits

Really? Belief In Conspiracies Not Increasing

Really? Belief In Conspiracies Not Increasing

Quick Hits
Daily brief research updates from the cognitive sciences

conspiracy brain

We may feel like we’re in an age of conspiracy theories, that social media is turbocharging the wild and wacky theories, and the so-called information bubbles are sending people down conspiracy rabbit holes that the never get out of. I certainly know a few people who seem to have fallen prey to this. Which is why this piece of research caught my eye and initially sounded wrong.

So, belief in conspiracies is not increasing, really?

Yes, really. This is what Joseph Uscinski of the University of Miami reported in a recently published paper. He and fellow collaborators came to this conclusion after four separate analyses in the USA and Europe.

    • Analysed whether beliefs in certain conspiracy theories – including theories related to COVID-19 and the Kennedy assassination – have increased among Americans.
    • Evaluated beliefs in conspiracy theories, including, for example, that human-driven global warming is a hoax, in six European countries.
    • Evaluated Americans’ beliefs in which specific groups are conspiring.
    • And finally, measured general lines of thought in the U.S. related to belief in conspiracy theories.

They found that there was no evidence that conspiracy beliefs have increased over time – this includes, surprisingly, those related to COVID-19 and Q-Anon. This seems to fly in the face of what we experience but we may be forgetting that though social media may increase exposure to conspiracy theories, it also increases our own exposure to these so we may, because of the attention, falsely believe that these are on the rise.

That is comforting – obviously some conspiracies come and recede over time (and I’ve fallen for a few myself). But there is no general increase in conspiracy thinking.

However, what is concerning is that there appears to be a baseline of belief in conspiracy theories – and this ain’t changing.

So that’s good news, no increase, and bad news, the beliefs are here to stay (in different forms).

And this was written by a real human being who cares about the state of the world.

Andy Habermacher

Andy Habermacher

Andy is author of leading brains Review, Neuroleadership, and multiple other books. He has been intensively involved in writing and research into neuroleadership and is considered one of Europe’s leading experts. He is also a well-known public speaker, speaking on the brain and human behaviour.

Andy is also a masters athlete (middle distance running) and competes regularly at international competitions (and holds a few national records in his age category).

twitter / LinkedIn

Reference

Joseph Uscinski, Adam Enders, Casey Klofstad, Michelle Seelig, Hugo Drochon, Kamal Premaratne, Manohar Murthi.
Have beliefs in conspiracy theories increased over time?
PLOS ONE, 2022; 17 (7): e0270429
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0270429

More Quick Hits

You Wake Up 100 Times Each Night – And That Helps Memory

You Wake Up 100 Times Each Night – And That Helps Memory

Quick Hits
Daily brief research updates from the cognitive sciences

sleep brain memory

I have written numerous posts and articles on sleep and the brain (review here), and the evidence is crystal clear. Good and consistent sleep is essential to all aspects of physical and mental health.

So, this latest piece of research may come as a surprise and feels a bit strange. Specifically, researchers around Celia Kjaerby at the University of Copenhagen found that we may awaken up to 100 times per night. And counter-intuitively this may even be a sign of good night’s sleep. How that?

What these researchers found is that the refreshing part of sleep, deep sleep, is driven by waves of noradrenaline. Yes, a chemical that is normally a stimulant and highly active in arousal states. These waves wash over the brain in short bursts and awaken the brain – however we do not normally notice this because these are small bursts and do not trigger conscious awakening – but according to brain activity the brain is awake.

The researchers see this as an important aspect of sleep which helps to reset the cellular processes and the brain and helps to consolidate memory. In fact, this is precisely what the researchers found.

This research was in mice, common in neuroscience research, and they had implanted small electrodes in the brain to monitor the sleep patterns. That’s how they were able to detects these noradrenaline waves. When they actively stimulated these waves during sleep, memory improved.

This therefore shows that this process seems to be important for enabling memory consolidation. Moreover, this seems to be related to the amplitude of noradrenaline waves i.e. those with higher bursts but lower lows also showed improved memory function.

This research could also be very important information because, for example, some forms of anti-depressant increase noradrenaline but this may inhibit these waves by elevating levels and this could then stimulate memory deficits or less restful sleep.

So, we know getting a good night’s sleep is essential to health but this shows that it is more nuanced than we thought and that noradrenaline is also important for good sleep and good memory…all while waking you up.

Andy Habermacher

Andy Habermacher

Andy is author of leading brains Review, Neuroleadership, and multiple other books. He has been intensively involved in writing and research into neuroleadership and is considered one of Europe’s leading experts. He is also a well-known public speaker, speaking on the brain and human behaviour.

Andy is also a masters athlete (middle distance running) and competes regularly at international competitions (and holds a few national records in his age category).

twitter / LinkedIn

Reference

Celia Kjaerby, Mie Andersen, Natalie Hauglund, Verena Untiet, Camilla Dall, Björn Sigurdsson, Fengfei Ding, Jiesi Feng, Yulong Li, Pia Weikop, Hajime Hirase, Maiken Nedergaard. 
Memory-enhancing properties of sleep depend on the oscillatory amplitude of norepinephrine
Nature Neuroscience, 2022
DOI: 10.1038/s41593-022-01102-9

More Quick Hits

Only Three Factors Can Predict Mental Illness With 90% Accuracy

Only Three Factors Can Predict Mental Illness With 90% Accuracy

Quick Hits
Daily brief research updates from the cognitive sciences

mental health brain

There are multiple mental disorders that can afflict us human beings. And the assumption is that these are complex in nature and there are a multitude of paths to mental illness.

However, there have been a few proposals over the years showing that it may be simpler than we think. I have worked with a model originally proposed by Klaus Grawe and he showed that almost all of well-being could be boiled down to satisfying emotional needs (or not – having needs violated). Others have made promising inroads to identifying a G-Factor – a general factor for mental health.

But this piece of research showed with high accuracy that three factors could predict any mental illness with very high accuracy.

Maisha Iqbal et al. from McGill University in Canada have identified the factors of, what they call, temperament, adversity, and dopamine.

Temperament refers to impulsivity or cognitive control, the ability to control oneself and avoid impulses. Those high on impulsivity we already know have multiple risk factors in life.

Adversity refers to trauma and negative events in life particularly in early years. Again, previous research has shown that the number and severity of early trauma has dramatic impacts on mental health in later life.

Dopamine refers to the dopamine reward pathway in the brain and individual variability in this. Of note is that though dopamine is involved in reward it is also involved in attention and therefore also control – the first point here.

These three combined can predict with 90% accuracy whether somebody has had or currently has a mental disorder. An incredibly high figure. This also points to interventions and how to predict and mitigate these factors. Some of these can be trained and developed.

This is still early days – this research does need to be built on and replicated in larger population groups but nevertheless promising and giving us clear clues as to the underlying mechanisms of mental illness and how to avoid it.

Andy Habermacher

Andy Habermacher

Andy is author of leading brains Review, Neuroleadership, and multiple other books. He has been intensively involved in writing and research into neuroleadership and is considered one of Europe’s leading experts. He is also a well-known public speaker, speaking on the brain and human behaviour.

Andy is also a masters athlete (middle distance running) and competes regularly at international competitions (and holds a few national records in his age category).

twitter / LinkedIn

Reference

Maisha Iqbal, Sylvia Maria Leonarda Cox, Natalia Jaworska, Maria Tippler, Natalie Castellanos-Ryan, Sophie Parent, Alain Dagher, Frank Vitaro, Mara R. Brendgen, Michel Boivin, Robert O. Pihl, Sylvana M. Côté, Richard E. Tremblay, Jean R. Séguin, Marco Leyton. 
A three-factor model of common early onset psychiatric disorders: temperament, adversity, and dopamine
Neuropsychopharmacology, 2021
DOI: 10.1038/s41386-021-01187-z

More Quick Hits

Cooperation Amongst Strangers Is On the Rise

Cooperation Amongst Strangers Is On the Rise

Quick Hits
Daily brief research updates from the cognitive sciences

collaboration cooperation brain

Despite a belief in many that society is falling apart and becoming less caring and social this study proves the opposite.

A study published by Yuan et al. with the American Psychological Association analysed 511 studies conducted between 1956 and 2017 and including over 63’000 participants. This takes us from what many consider the Golden Age of the USA in the 1950s to the modern era. And what did they find?

They found that there was a slow but consistent increase in helping stranger and general cooperativeness over the period. This shows that in the USA a tendency to be cooperative and help strangers has increased over time. This may counteract some people’s beliefs and portrayals of polarised societies.

The authors note this correlates with certain factors such as increased urbanization, societal wealth, income inequality, and also people living alone. Each of these could contribute to increased willingness to help strangers. However, this is only a correlation and they can’t show causation – it is likely multiple reasons including the above. As people move into cities, live closer to each other but also live alone we may be more open to and willing to help others. The same applies to increased wealth giving some people the financial ability to help others particularly if there is need with income inequality.

But the most important take way is that this is good news and though we may see and be drawn to media reports of negativity and polarised anti-social behaviour in society – the fact is we (well, the USA at least) is becoming more cooperative and helpful.

And that’s good news ain’t it!

Andy Habermacher

Andy Habermacher

Andy is author of leading brains Review, Neuroleadership, and multiple other books. He has been intensively involved in writing and research into neuroleadership and is considered one of Europe’s leading experts. He is also a well-known public speaker speaking on the brain and human behaviour.

Andy is also a masters athlete (middle distance running) and competes regularly at international competitions (and holds a few national records in his age category).

twitter / LinkedIn

Reference

Mingliang Yuan, Giuliana Spadaro, Shuxian Jin, Junhui Wu, Yu Kou, Paul A. M. Van Lange, Daniel Balliet. 
Did cooperation among strangers decline in the United States? A cross-temporal meta-analysis of social dilemmas (1956–2017).
Psychological Bulletin, 2022; 148 (3-4): 129
DOI: 10.1037/bul0000363

More Quick Hits