Tag Archives: Psychology

Learn to Spot a Liar With These Verbal Signs

At times, lies seem so harmless, but they can stress us out, and even cost us money. On a more subtle level, it changes our pattern of speech, and since most of us aren’t as good at lying as we think, if you know what to look for you can probably catch a lie in the act.

The explanation for why we lie is pretty straightforward: we want to connect ourselves to who we think we should be, rather than just being the person we are, this TED-Ed video explains.


Stories based on lies, or “imagined experiences”, are different from real experiences because we have to put a bit of thought into it. As such, we’ll change the way we speak without even knowing it. Specifically, there are four notable indicators:

  1. Minimal self-references: Liars often use the third-person to distance themselves from the deceptive statements.
  2. Negative language: Liars tend to be more negative because on a subconscious level, they feel guilty about lying.
  3. Simple explanations: Liars typically recount stories or events in simple terms because it’s hard for the brain to come up with a complex lie (at least on the spot).
  4. Convoluted phrasing: Liars use longer, more convoluted sentences with irrelevant details when they could be more straight to the point.

The rest of the video spends time applying these key points to examples in our culture, examining how certain public figures change their way of speaking from one interview (presumably where they lie) to another (where they tell the truth). As we’ve written in other articles, looking for nonverbal cues is also important.


The Language of Lying | TED-Ed

Get Over a Breakup With “Redemptive Narrative” Journaling

Get Over a Breakup With "Redemptive Narrative" Journaling

There are a lot of great reasons to keep a journal, and getting over a breakup might be one of them. The key is using your words to reframe your suffering into a positive, or at least meaningful, experience.


A recent study, conducted by Erica B. Slotter and Deborah E. Ward at Villanova University, and published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, suggests that writing about your experience in a certain way can lessen the emotional toll that breakups take. Using a method called “redemptive narratives,” you can turn negative life events into a positive turning point in your life. For example, you can write about how you learned something important about yourself, or that you now have a better understanding of a relationship’s dynamics. Additionally, you can use hindsight to your advantage to reshape memories and decide how they positively affected your personal story. It may not work as well in the long-term, but time heals most wounds, and it can help you work through the darkest days of heartbreak early on.

Finding the Silver Lining | Journal of Social and Personal Relationships via Business Insider

Photo by lukestehr.

Figure Out What You Really Love to Do With the “Laptop Test”

Figure Out What You Really Love to Do With the “Laptop Test”

You’ll find no shortage of tips from many of the most successful and powerful people on how to find your “passion”, or what you truly love to do. Here’s a simpler way: gauge how you feel about opening your laptop.

When you first open your laptop (or turn on your computer), it’s an important moment of the day because it defines whether you are doing exactly the kind of work you’re supposed to be doing. This is the thinking behind ex-Facebook employee and now full-time comedian Paul Ollinger, who wakes up at 5 a.m. every day for work just because he can’t wait to start writing material for his shows. He calls it the “laptop test.”

What’s your orientation toward your laptop when you wake up in the morning? Are you dying to open it—do you see it as opportunity? Or do you see it as Pandora’s box?

If you look at your laptop as a bug you’d rather squash because you dread looking at all of the emails or starting your work day, well, that says something. Of course, it’s not as simple as setting your laptop on fire and dancing around its ashes in defiance. The “laptop test” is just the easiest way to see if you’re on the right path. Once you know, you’ll have to put in the work and time to make your career shift possible.



An early Facebook employee says the ‘laptop test’ can help you figure out what you should be doing with your life | Business Insider

Image by Alejandro Pinto.

Why We Cringe at the Sound of Our Own Voices

Why We Cringe at the Sound of Our Own Voices

If you’ve ever heard your own voice played back on a recording and thought “do I really sound like that?” you’re not alone. Most of us at least cringe when we hear how we sound to others, and The Science of Us explains why, and what it says about us.

First, the reason why we sound different to ourselves then when we hear ourselves recorded is due to the physiology of our skull. When we hear our own voices, we hear it through an “extra” set of speakers as it were—bone conduction. More specifically:

This is known as bone conduction, meaning that when your vocal cords vibrate to produce speech, that movement also causes the bones of the skull to vibrate, and this, too, is registered in the cochlea. Bone conduction transmits lower frequencies as compared to air conduction, so this is one reason why your voice sounds so unfamiliar when it’s played back to you. When you hear the sound through your own head, your brain perceives it as being lower-pitched than it really is, because the transmission via the skull made it sound that way.

So, sadly, when we hear our voices played back to us, it’s how everyone else hears us. Yikes—but why do we cringe at the unfamiliarity of our own voices?

But you could think of a cringe as a shock of self-consciousness. Some psychologists and philosophers see a divide between the experience of the “lived body” and the “corporeal body,” and argue that emotions that elicit self-consciousness cause the two to collide.

…Put another way: Most of the time, most of us live inside our own heads, imagining that the person we believe we are presenting to the world is indeed the person that the world sees. Cringeworthy moments yank us out of that fantasy, forcing us to at least briefly take an outsider’s view of ourselves.

The next time you remember that thing you did that was so embarrassing it just makes you shiver or start talking to yourself to try and pave over the thought in your head, well, that’s why. The Science of Us goes on to explain that if you don’t cringe—or don’t have a problem at all with hearing your own voice, you may either have higher self-esteem than many of us, be better at handling that multiple-perspective approach to life, or, just maybe, you’re just used to it.

The whole piece is well worth a read, and packed with studies and citations on all of this phenomena. Hit the link below to check it all out.

What Cringing at Your Own Dumb Voice Reveals About You | The Science of Us

Photo by Alexis Nyal.

The Power of Going It Alone

The Power of Going It Alone

I like doing things alone—eating dinner, playing games, seeing movies—but for some, the idea seems depressing, sad, or only for people with no one to be with. That’s nonsense. Doing things alone develops self-sufficiency, gives you time for honest reflection, and, forces you to learn to like yourself a little—or at least figure out why you don’t.


You Don’t Miss Out On Great Experiences for No Good Reason

The more self-conscious you are about going it alone, the more you’re doing yourself a massive disservice. How many times have you wanted to do something fun only to stop because you couldn’t find someone to join you? “I’m not going to the movies alone,” you say to yourself, “It won’t be as fun.” But research suggests we’re terrible at guessing how much we’ll enjoy things on our own, and it holds us back.

Rebecca Ratner, professor of Marketing at the University of Maryland, has been studying people’s reluctance to pursue solo activities for years, and she believes such reluctance leads people to experience less joy in their lives overall. In Ratner’s study “Inhibited From Bowling Alone,” published in the Journal of Consumer Research, she found that people consistently underestimated how much they’d enjoy seeing a show, going to a museum, seeing a movie, and eating at a restaurant by themselves.

This becomes a serious problem when it becomes an automatic response to anything fun you’d like to do. Not only does it restrict your fun, but as Ratner notes, it gets worse the longer you wait. Your time is a finite resource, and everything you put off today because you didn’t want to do it alone won’t be an option later, whether you’re alone or with someone.

If you’re worried what people will think about you eating at a table for one or sitting in a dark theater alone, take solace in this: nobody cares. People don’t think about you as much as you think they do. Unless you’re sobbing while you eat your solo dinner or shouting about how your loneliness in the back of the theater, nobody is paying attention to you. Besides, when you make an effort to have more “me” time, it’s your choice. You’re in control. You don’t have to feel like a sad sack because you’re choosing to do it.


Flying Solo Gives You Freedom, Control, and Time to Reflect

What’s for dinner? Whatever you want. What’s the plan for tonight? Anything. What music should we listen to? That guilty-pleasure pop song you love to sing as loud as possible. You rule, and you get to rule with an iron fist. Solo time eliminates social democracy, and you don’t have to worry about anyone’s schedule but your own. You get to order food when you’re ready, see the movie you want to see when it’s convenient for you, and be as spontaneous as you please.

You also don’t have to worry about entertaining anyone. There’s no need to keep up appearances, try to be nice, or worry about someone else having a good time. All that matters is if you are having a good time. Plus, focusing on yourself means you’ll have more mental energy for when you do spend time with others.

Most importantly, doing things alone gives you time to ponder and reflect. You have more thoughts than you realize, and time alone helps you work through them. It’s meditative, and letting your mind wander unloads stress that’s weighing you down. It’s also time you can truly be yourself, or, if you don’t know who you are yet, it’s time you can use to find out. How can you be your authentic self around other people if you don’t know what that feels like alone?


Self-Sufficiency Is the Ultimate Skill

There’s nothing more empowering than independence. The less you need from others, the more you’ll ultimately accomplish. When you go it alone, you’re forced to learn how to handle everything by yourself. You go from being a screwdriver in a toolbox to being a capable multitool. This increases your self-reliance and boosts your confidence, not only socially, but in multiple aspects of your life. When you can’t rely on your friends or coworkers, you’ll know how to handle it, cope without stressing yourself out, and when you really do need to reach out for help versus pushing your own boundaries.

Furthermore, when you’re self-sufficient, no one stands in the way of your goals but you. When you’re comfortable doing things on your own, you’re the only one who keeps you from traveling abroad, taking classes, seeing that band you like, or doing something you’ve always wanted to. Of course, freedom is a double-edge sword. Having control also means you don’t have anyone to use as an excuse or as support, but it might just be the fire you need to get moving.


Being Comfortable Alone Doesn’t Mean Being Antisocial

However, balance is everything. Being comfortable in your own skin and being alone doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy spending time with others. It also doesn’t mean shutting yourself off from the world. I may love my alone time, but I still see my friends to play games, chat, and watch Game of Thrones. I meet with a running club every Wednesday, and I when I go out alone where there are other people, I strike up friendly conversations. In fact, going it alone has helped me cultivate my social skills. It’s good to meet people who aren’t like you, so go get a taste of the world beyond your clique.


That said, I also enjoy times where I’m a little more reclusive. We all need a break from the world sometimes, but it’s all a carefully choreographed balancing act. You shouldn’t spend all your time with people, but you shouldn’t spend all your time closed off either. We all need social interaction, but don’t let it become a crutch.

Whenever someone asks me why I like doing things alone, I’ll explain, but follow up with my own question: “Why do you need other people to do what you want to do?” I get answers along the lines of “doing stuff with people is more fun” or “is necessary” (sometimes true), or “I don’t want people to think I’m weird,” or some other vague answers.

Occasionally, though, my question hits home. People don’t know how to answer because, well, they don’t know! If you think doing things alone is depressing or weird, give it some serious thought. Why don’t you want to spend quality time with the one and only you? You might think you need a co-pilot to support you, but you’ll never know until you have your first solo flight.

Illustration by Angelica Alzona.

Jobs You Probably Never Considered, the Health Benefits of Yoga, and a Billboard that Kills Zika Mosquitoes

Jobs You Probably Never Considered, the Health Benefits of Yoga, and a Billboard that Kills Zika Mosquitoes

Some Monday morning inspiration, career options your guidance counselor probably never suggested, the real health benefits of yoga (that don’t require pricey pants), and more, all in this week’s Lifehacker Brain Buffet!

Welcome to Lifehacker’s Monday Brain Buffet, a new series where we round up interesting, informative, and thought-provoking podcasts, interviews, articles, and other media that will teach you something new, inspire you, and hopefully start your week off on the right foot.

Jobs Your Guidance Counselor Probably Never Mentioned

From snake milking to cheese carving, John Green over at Mental Floss rounds up a ton of hilarious—but important—jobs that probably weren’t on your radar when you were thinking about what to be when you grew up, or what to do when you got out of school. And don’t worry, if neither of those sound great, there are plenty of others to choose from, like ice cream taster (yum!), dog food taster (ugh.), and even NASA chief “sniffer,” who smells things before they go into space. The whole affair is both eye-opening and hilarious, and worth a watch. [via Mental Floss]

A Whole Computer Science Class Didn’t Realize their Teaching Assistant Was a Chat Bot

We’re probably already at the point where the Turing Test isn’t a terribly meaningful way to discern a human on the internet from a computer—mostly because of the slowly degrading quality of human interaction online and the rapidly improving capabilities of chat bots and immature AIs that tech companies are programming to be our “virtual assistants” like Siri and Google Now, and other gatekeeping service tools (I see you, Microsoft.)

So it doesn’t totally surprise me that a college CS professor programmed a chat bot to essentially “be” his class’s teaching assistant, and then ran a semester-long test on his students to see if they’d ever realize that they weren’t talking to a human being at all on their class forum. To their credit though, many students did get a little suspicious, and the fact that the TA’s name was Jill Watson (because the bot was powered by IBM’s Watson) may have thrown up a red flag here or there. [via TheNextWeb]

The Actual Health Benefits of Yoga, Beyond Stretching and Flexibility

This video from DNews probably does the best job I’ve seen at breaking down the health benefits of Yoga (alongside the dumbed down, reductive, blatantly misappropriative aspects of how it’s practiced in the US) that I’ve seen since, well, the last time we talked about it around here.


More than a few studies have pointed to the fact that the act of relaxation and meditation and focusing on your body in concert with exercise can bring the benefits of both at the same time. In the end, you get reduced stress, eased chronic (or acute, for that matter) pain from long-term conditions, improved bloodflow, and more. While it’s no magic ticket to a long and healthy life, it’s certainly on to something—something more people could benefit from, and they don’t have to buy expensive mats and brand-name tights to participate. [via DNews]

Finding Your Flavors in the Kitchen

The New York Times recently started a new documentary series called Taste Makers, each a profile of an interesting or outstanding young person in America who’s doing something unique in their aspiring career in the food industry—whether they’re a chef, a farmer, or an entrepeneur. This video, one of the first in the series, follows Adrienne Cheatham, an executive chef at Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem.

To say the series is inspiring is a bit of an understatement. I always knew that working in the food industry is hard, long, thankless work, but this shines a bit of a light on it, and is always a good reminder. Marcus’ kind (but forcefully honest) words about his chef in front of the camera were also particularly interesting from a leadership perspective, where he was more than easily able to talk about Adrienne’s strengths and growth areas calmly with her standing right there. Adrienne’s work and passion—and then coming home at night to pour herself a glass of something strong after a 12-16 hour day and work on her inspiration board, even though she says she’s not feeling inspired, is also amazing.

Seriously, give the whole thing a watch. I’ll probably include a few others from the playlist in future Brain Buffets, so don’t binge the whole series, okay? [via The New York Times]

The Theories on How We Experience Consciousness, and a New Challenger: Time Slicing

There are two prevailing theories on how we experience the world and reality around us. One says it’s kind of like a movie, a constant stream of informaton and perception without a real beginning or end. The other posits that it’s more like the frames of a movie, imperceptible bits of time stitched together into perception to create consciousness, and a brain that glosses over the missing bits on behalf of the conscious mind.

Now there’s a new theory, posited in a recent paper, published at PLOS Biology (full text there, so feel free to read it,) by a team of researchers who suggest that it’s a bit of a hybrid, with consciousness happening in “time slices” of about 400 milliseconds each, and our brain stitching it together in a coherent, consistent manner. From ScienceAlert:

In their model, ‘time slices’ consisting of unconscious processing of stimuli last for up to 400 milliseconds (ms), and are immediately followed by the conscious perception of events.

“The reason is that the brain wants to give you the best, clearest information it can, and this demands a substantial amount of time,” said researcher Michael Herzog from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). “There is no advantage in making you aware of its unconscious processing, because that would be immensely confusing.”

According to Herzog and fellow researcher Frank Scharnowski from the University of Zurich, neither the ‘continuous’ nor ‘discrete’ hypotheses can by themselves aptly describe how we process the world around us, as numerous studies testing people’s visual awareness seem to disprove both notions.

… After this analysis is complete, the researchers say the features we’ve detected are integrated into our conscious perception, compressing all the unconscious recording into something we’re actually aware of.

In other words, while we’re taking the world in, we’re not actually consciously perceiving it. Instead, we’re just mutely using our senses to record data for up to 400 ms at a time. Then, in what could be called a moment of clarity, we consciously perceive the stimuli that our senses have detected.

Of course, like any preliminary research, this is preliminary—and you shouldn’t take this as ummutable fact or anything. It’s just very interesting, and insight into the study of exactly how we perceive the world around us, and how we understand it. [via ScienceAlert]

A Billboard that Kills Zika Mosquitoes

The mosquito that carries the Zika virus also carries a number of other illnesses that can be fatal to humans. Putting aside the pending global issue with the Zika virus and the Olympics, much less the ongoing public health emergency in Brazil because of it, this simple billboard is capable of killing hundreds of mosquitoes every day—and the people who made it have released the plans and blueprints to the public under Creative Commons, so anyone can make one of their own.


It’s more than a big bug zapper though. The billboard releases a combination of CO2 and lactic acid into the air, mimicking human breath and sweat to attract the mosquitoes. It’s also lit, making it more attractive to the bugs at night. At the bottom is a simple capture device, sucking in the mosquitoes that fly near it and trapping them inside until they die of dehydration.

It’s a simple solution that’s effective at killing the mosquitoes already in the air. Combined with disposing of standing water and disturbing water where mosquitoes breed, it’s an easy one-two punch that towns and municipalities can put into action to control their mosquito populations, whether they’re worried about Zika or not. [via Hackaday]

That’s all for this week! If you have thought-provoking stories, interesting podcasts, eye-opening videos, or anything else you think would be perfect for Brain Buffet, share it with us! Email it to me, leave it as a comment below, or send it over any way you know how.

Title gif by Nick Criscuolo.

Treat Your Uninformed Critics Like You Would a Toddler

Treat Your Uninformed Critics Like You Would a Toddler

There will always be people who will try to bring you down without knowing any better. Treat them like toddlers, says author and entrepreneur Seth Godin: “Buy them a lollipop, smile and walk away.”

Whether you’re dealing with trolls on your blog or a family member who sabotages you for selfish reasons, think of them as you would a two-year old, Godin advises: someone who just doesn’t know any better:

Most people don’t get too upset at anything a two-year-old kid says to them.

That’s because we don’t believe that toddlers have a particularly good grasp on the nuances of the world, nor do they possess much in the way of empathy. Mostly, though, it turns out that getting mad at a toddler doesn’t do any good, because he’s not going to change as a result (not for a few years, anyway).

This is not to say that you should ignore all criticism you receive. We all can learn from others’ criticisms of us. But it’ll probably be obvious which of your critics are people who are criticising just for the sake of criticising and which actually have your best interests in mind. For the former, wait for them to grow up…or not.

The toddler strategy | Seth Godin

Photo by amseaman.

Don’t Give Thoughtful Gifts, Give Your Friends What They Actually Want

Don't Give Thoughtful Gifts, Give Your Friends What They Actually Want

Thoughtful gifts are the best gifts, right? Not so fast. Choosing a “thoughtful” gift might be more selfish than letting your gift recipient choose their own gift.

Researchers at Ward of Southern Methodist University and the University of Texas at Austin conducted a series of experiments with 90 college students. Half were put in the gift recipient group and asked to choose a lamp to put on their gift registry. The other half, the givers, were asked to pick out a lamp for the recipients from five options, with one lamp marked as the one on the person’s registry.

The results are fascinating. Only 23 percent of the gift givers chose a different lamp for the other person if they weren’t close friends. However, if the gift giver and recipients were friends? An incredible 61 percent of the gift givers ignored the registry choice and selected a different lamp.

Although it’s a small sample size, the studies point out the bias we have when selecting gifts for our friends. Gift-giving is an occasion to share your personal interests with the recipient or demonstrate how well you know him or her. Whether consciously or not, we consider our own need to choose a “meaningful” gift and our relationship with the person rather than what the person might really want (even as stated on the gift registry!). The Washington Post explains:

The discrepancy seems to come from a simple misplaced belief that thoughtful presents are the best presents. They are not. In fact, they might just be the worst presents. The more thought you put into a present, the more likely you are to stray from buying what the person you’re buying the present for actually wants.

“Gift givers tend to focus on what people are like instead of what people actually would like,” said Steffel. “And it’s most pronounced when they’re shopping for people they are close to.”

In other words, people let their gift-giving egos get in the way of great presents. Especially when the recipient is someone they want to show they know really well.

If there’s a registry, stick to it. If not, you might be better off asking your friend what he or she wants or giving a gift card with a suggestion for something he or she might like. Perhaps that sounds thoughtless and lazy, but your friend might appreciate it more. If you’re on the gift-receiving end, you could help your friends out by setting up your wish list.

Ask and You Shall (Not) Receive: Close Friends Prioritize Relational Signaling Over Recipient Preferences in Their Gift Choices | Social Science Research Network via The Washington Post

Why thoughtful gifts are the worst gifts | The Washington Post

Photo by OakleyOriginals.

“Maybe You’re Simply Not Being Used Properly”

If you ever feel like you’re not going anywhere or that you’re undervalued or struggling to make a difference, consider this: Are your talents or skills being put to their best use?

Redditor worstbestmanever shared this motivating metaphor:

"Maybe You're Simply Not Being Used Properly"

You’re not a Dremel disc, but the analogy works. Everyone has their own strengths, and the key to happiness is being able to apply them in the right situations. Are you being used properly? [Thanks Dan!]

[Image] Utilized properly. | Reddit

The Research-Backed Key to Practical Hope: Focus On Your Own Effort

The Research-Backed Key to Practical Hope: Focus On Your Own Effort

“Hope” sounds like it doesn’t exist outside of movies. It’s impractical to just cross your fingers and hope things get better. If you tie your hope to your own effort, though, it gets a lot more effective.

As tips site Barking Up the Wrong Tree explains, “hope” is the belief that things will get better in the future. If you don’t do anything to make that happen, then obviously your hope might not lead anywhere. However, if you use that hope to fuel your work, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Put simply, those who have hope for a better future and work towards it do better than people who only do one or the other:

Sound corny? No, this isn’t just wishing things will go well. Angela says you need an active type of hope. You must believe things will improve because you’re going to improve them. Now hope may sound fuzzy and unscientific but it’s not. Research shows people without hope avoid bigger challenges, quit earlier, and act helpless. What could be more anti-grit than that?

For a cynical mind, it’s easy to assume that the hope part is irrelevant as long as you’re doing the work. However, as University of Pennsylvania professor Angela Duckworth points out, if you work continuously without any hope that things will get better, you’re more likely to avoid the risks and quicker to quit. Work and hope go hand-in-hand, if you want to improve your future.

This Is The Research-Backed Way To Increase Grit | Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Photo by Steve Snodgrass.