natureA lot of wishy-washy, sentimental stuff has been said about the positive benefits of nature – stuff that we appreciate but often find a bit unsubstantial – but a new study gives some scientific support for that idea.

The preliminary results of a new study showed that feelings of awe can make people less self-centered and more generous. The study had subjects stare at our very own Valley Life Sciences Building and our eucalyptus grove. Those looking at our lovely trees reported more “humility, compassion and cooperation.”

In an urban environment like Berkeley, most people probably neglect to experience nature. This is why we love the fact that our school has areas dedicated to nature. It’s calming and apparently improves our willingness to cooperate.

Maybe all group projects should have a mandatory meeting in our eucalyptus grove? We could all sit in a circle, sing kumbaya and tree-hug our differences away.

Or imagine corporations having their offices in a building symbiotic with nature, complete with little capuchin monkeys delivering all memos? We know our productivity would rise just by being around awesome trees all day. This is our attempt to surreptitiously convince all of those Randian leaders of industry to plant a damn tree for once. read more »


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We at the Clog know inequalities between men and women in the workplace sucks. A new study led by a UC Berkeley psychologist has looked into the issue and found that these obstacles affect women who also run their households more than we thought. (Basically, they have fewer career ambitions.)

Of course, the study also found that men’s ambitions weren’t affected when they were in control of the household.

We have empowered women without the appropriate shift in gender values. As of the 2010 census, more working women over 25 have bachelor’s degrees than men. Yet among the Fortune 500, they hold just 16.6 percent of board seats and just 14.3 percent of executive officer positions, according to an NBC news article. There’s more qualified women, yet they’re underrepresented at the highest positions. What’s the deal? Nothing makes sense.

Out of college, women earn 82 percent of what men earn. Women are just as ambitious and capable as men, but the glass ceiling is real. Our expectations of women have not changed to recognize their capabilities.

“Being in charge of household decisions may bring a semblance of power to women’s traditional role, to the point where women may have less desire to push against the obstacles to achieving additional power outside the home,” said UC Berkeley psychologist Serena Chen in a press release.

In education, we are in 2013; but when it comes to “traditional roles,” we may as well be in the 1960s. read more »


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According to a new study lead by sixth-year graduate student Amie Gordon, sleep deprivation makes some people more self-centered and consequently express less gratitude toward romantic partners.

Gratitude is vital in relationships of all kinds. But maybe there is a link between that all-nighter spent writing a paper and that argument that happened the next day?

This is why we at the Clog now have the best prescription for relationship health: Sleep all day. Preferably together. Adopt the sleeping schedule of cats. When you and your partner manage to wake up for the same three hours once a week, the conversation will be all excuse-me’s and thank-you’s.

Remember that Depeche Mode song “Enjoy the Silence”? Well, you can’t talk when you’re sleeping. We believe we have taken this study to its natural conclusion.

This is also why we believe us mega-sleepers are so generous and friendly. Thanks Ms. coffee-lady, we’re well rested and can now properly empathize. Have a massive tip. And Mr. cut-me-off-on-the-freeway? Thanks for not crashing into us, we guess.

Another point in Gordon’s study — who’s pursuing a doctorate in social-personality psychology — is that the expression of gratitude actually affects a person’s mental and physical health. It can lead to “fewer headaches and stomachaches, as well as better cardiovascular health.”

In the back of our minds, most of us know that emotions are biological. Chemicals and whatnot. But sometimes we like to pretend that they’re not. This may be why the expression of gratitude improving someone’s physical health comes as a surprise. Good emotions, good health.

Gordon also said that this “could be another point of research for how other bodily mechanisms, such as feeling hunger or being cold, can affect emotions.” Truly fascinating. Who knew our emotions were so much at the whim of our physical circumstances? We look forward to hearing more.

Image source: Wandering in China under Creative Commons


As the Finals issue features a great article on study-friendly instrumental tracks, we got inspired to explore the relationship of music and focus a bit further. It’s no surprise that while studying, many students prefer white noise or music to the jarring sound of chairs scraping throughout Moffit. But are there particular types of music that are more conducive to learning or focus? Some research suggests there are.

Studies in music and cognition receiving most media attention are those focused on what many dub the Mozart effect. The term usually refers to several similar theories, all centered on the idea that classical music may aid in temporary or long-term learning enhancement. In one experiment, students exposed to classical music showed increased — but temporary — spatial-temporal reasoning ability.

Similarly, gamma waves can describe a specific pattern of neural oscillations — brain waves — at a frequency of around 50 Hz. Researchers such as György Buzsaki have published evidence suggesting that the nature of the frequency of these waves may aid conscious attention through facilitating activity within the thalamus, a brain structure partially involved in alertness and consciousness. While the theory remains in need of further support, we still suggest trying out gamma-wave music therapy for yourself!

Our favorite tracks
We love Youtube tracks (1) Biaural Beats: Study, Focus, Concentrate and (2) High focus – Gamma brainwaves in particular, because they’re repetitive enough to discourage distraction. For those who might prefer classical music, we suggest the (3) Study Music Project, also on Youtube. Happy finals prep week!

-R.S.

Image source: Karmalize under Creative Commons.


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All of us experience the fearless, foraging squirrels on a nearly daily basis, but these squirrels are a lot smarter than we might think. Maybe the atmosphere of academia is rubbing off on them? … Or maybe the squirrels are rubbing off on Berkeley?

Researchers have been observing how the squirrels here actually save food for the future. They either eat the nuts they find or look for places to bury them, sometimes travelling as far as 100 meters. This behavior is called “cacheing.” Who knew these fox squirrels were so forward-thinking? Every nut is precious, especially in this economy.

read more »


ANGELIC

We are sure that every Cal student has had a moment where they embarrassed themselves in front of their peers on campus. Fell down the stairs in Wheeler? Said something woefully dumb in your discussion section? We’ve all been there.

It’s not all that bad though. A recent UC Berkeley study published online in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology concludes that often feeling embarrassed may be an indicator of good character in an individual. read more »


facebookHow many times have you heard someone say that they’re just “stalking their ex on Facebook?”

We’re guessing quite a few.

Researchers recently studied over 300 undergraduate students to find out if Facebook sparks jealousy in romantic relationships. About 75 percent of participants were “at least somewhat likely” to be Facebook friends with an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend, while just about 79 percent of participants were aware that their current partner is friends with a former flame.

The study found that women spend more time on the site than men (41 minutes per day, as opposed to a mere 30 minutes) and also ranked significantly higher on what we’ll call “the Facebook jealousy index.”

Here are a few reasons the researchers think Facebook is correlated with jealousy: read more »


bashfulIf you’ve ever fallen on Sproul, found out you had your skirt tucked into your undergarments or pulled any other equally smooth maneuver, we have good news!

Researchers at UC Berkeley recently conducted studies where they found that people who experienced more mild embarrassment tended to be more pleasant people. We say ‘mild embarrassment’ because a panic attack does not fall under this beneficial category of pleasant personalities.

Studies show that people who get more embarrassed happen to be more trustworthy, generous and more likely to be monogamous. read more »


5343623250_706e3e606e_bTest your “emotional intelligence” with a short quiz developed by UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. Based in part on research by Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner, the quiz has you determine the emotion conveyed in twenty different facial expressions. We may have had a little trouble distinguishing pain from disgust and love from compassion, but at least we can look forward to the upcoming “empathy training tool,” which is sure to steer us clear of such heinous misinterpretations in the future.

Body Language Quiz [Greater Good]
Image Source: _tar0_ under Creative Commons


UC Berkeley psychologists Dacher Keltner, Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton, Robb Willer and sociologist Christine Carter are looking into research that may change our perception of “survival of the fittest” into “survival of the kindest and happiest.”

In our society, kindness is not exactly looked to as the key to success. Toughness and competitiveness are more likely to be deemed qualities that lead to success. However, happiness is not emphasized in our culture, and society may be lacking because of it. Christine Carter comments that happiness is “not something the most intelligent among us need or even want.” read more »


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