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SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MIND: WHY DOES TIME SEEM TO SPEED UP WITH AGE?


NOVEMBER 4 -MIND COGNITION:
 “Where did the time go?” middle-aged and older adults often remark. Many of us feel that time passes more quickly as we age, a perception that can lead to regrets. According to  psychologist and BBC columnist Claudia Hammond, “the sensation that time speeds up as you get older is one of the biggest mysteries of the experience of time.” Fortunately, our attempts to unravel this mystery have yielded some intriguing findings. In 2005, for instance, psychologists Marc Wittmann and Sandra Lenhoff, both then at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, surveyed 499 participants, ranging in age from 14 to 94 years, about the pace at which they felt time moving—from “very slowly” to “very fast.” For shorter durations—a week, a month, even a year—the subjects' perception of time did not appear to increase with age. Most participants felt that the clock ticked by quickly. But for longer durations, such as a decade, a pattern emerged: older people tended to perceive time as moving faster. When asked to reflect on their lives, the participants older than 40 felt that time elapsed slowly in their childhood but then accelerated steadily through their teenage years into early adulthood.READ MORE...

ALSO: BEHAVIOR & SOCIETY The Conversation - Why First-Born Children May Have Greater Success


NOVEMBER 3 -Credit: RIZI ANN DIVINAGRACIA, EyeEm, Getty Images
The following essay is reprinted with permission from The Conversation, an online publication covering the latest research.The Conversation The title of this article might trigger self-satisfied smiles among first-borns, and some concerns among the rest of us. Many studies show children born earlier in the family enjoy better wages and more education, but until now we didn’t really know why. Our recently published findings are the first to suggest advantages of first born siblings start very early in life—around zero to three years old! We observe parents changing their behaviour as new children are born, and offering less cognitive stimulation to children of higher birth order. READ MORE...RELATED, Negative Emotions, Anger, Sadness Are Key to Well-Being...

ALSO: COGNITION People with Autism Make More Logical Decisions


OCTOBER 31 -For illustration purposes only. Credit: MARTIN BARRAUD Getty Images Experiments show lower emotional awareness lead to more rational choices The following essay is reprinted with permission from The Conversation, an online publication covering the latest research. Decisions are based on the way choices are framed. This is because people use emotion when making decisions, leading to some options feeling more desirable than others. For example, when given £50, we are more likely to gamble the money if we stand to lose £30 than if we are going to keep £20.The Conversation Although both options are mathematically equivalent, the thought of losing money evokes a powerful emotional response and we are more likely to gamble to try to avoid losing money. This cognitive bias, first described by the psychologist Daniel Kahneman in the 1980s, is known as the “framing effect”. Despite this phenomenon being well documented, scientists are still trying to understand why our emotions have such a powerful influence on decision making.READ MORE...


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COGNITION: Why Does Time Seem to Speed Up with Age?

James M. Broadway, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Brittiney Sandoval, a recent graduate of the same institution, answer...


Credit: Loren Zemlicka

MANILA, NOVEMBER 7, 2016 (SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN) SA Mind COGNITION - “Where did the time go?” middle-aged and older adults often remark.

Many of us feel that time passes more quickly as we age, a perception that can lead to regrets. According to psychologist and BBC columnist Claudia Hammond, “the sensation that time speeds up as you get older is one of the biggest mysteries of the experience of time.”

Fortunately, our attempts to unravel this mystery have yielded some intriguing findings.

In 2005, for instance, psychologists Marc Wittmann and Sandra Lenhoff, both then at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, surveyed 499 participants, ranging in age from 14 to 94 years, about the pace at which they felt time moving—from “very slowly” to “very fast.”

For shorter durations—a week, a month, even a year—the subjects' perception of time did not appear to increase with age. Most participants felt that the clock ticked by quickly. But for longer durations, such as a decade, a pattern emerged: older people tended to perceive time as moving faster.

When asked to reflect on their lives, the participants older than 40 felt that time elapsed slowly in their childhood but then accelerated steadily through their teenage years into early adulthood.

READ MORE...

There are good reasons why older people may feel that way.

When it comes to how we perceive time, humans can estimate the length of an event from two very different perspectives: a prospective vantage, while an event is still occurring, or a retrospective one, after it has ended.

In addition, our experience of time varies with whatever we are doing and how we feel about it. In fact, time does fly when we are having fun. Engaging in a novel exploit makes time appear to pass more quickly in the moment. But if we remember that activity later on, it will seem to have lasted longer than more mundane experiences.

The reason? Our brain encodes new experiences, but not familiar ones, into memory, and our retrospective judgment of time is based on how many new memories we create over a certain period. In other words, the more new memories we build on a weekend getaway, the longer that trip will seem in hindsight.

This phenomenon, which Hammond has dubbed the holiday paradox, seems to present one of the best clues as to why, in retrospect, time seems to pass more quickly the older we get. From childhood to early adulthood, we have many fresh experiences and learn countless new skills.

As adults, though, our lives become more routine, and we experience fewer unfamiliar moments.

As a result, our early years tend to be relatively overrepresented in our autobiographical memory and, on reflection, seem to have lasted longer. Of course, this means we can also slow time down later in life.

We can alter our perceptions by keeping our brain active, continually learning skills and ideas, and exploring new places.
Question submitted by Esther Robison, New York City

Do you have a question about the brain you would like an expert to answer? Send it to MindEditors@sciam.com
This article was originally published with the title "Why does time seem to speed up with age?"


SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN

BEHAVIOR & SOCIETY The Conversation - Why First-Born Children May Have Greater Success By Marian Vidal-Fernandez, Ana Nuevo-Chiquero, The Conversation on November 3, 2016

Birth order differences can emerge before the age of three


Credit: RIZI ANN DIVINAGRACIA, EyeEm, Getty Images

The following essay is reprinted with permission from The Conversation, an online publication covering the latest research.

The Conversation

The title of this article might trigger self-satisfied smiles among first-borns, and some concerns among the rest of us.
Many studies show children born earlier in the family enjoy better wages and more education, but until now we didn’t really know why.

Our recently published findings are the first to suggest advantages of first born siblings start very early in life—around zero to three years old! We observe parents changing their behaviour as new children are born, and offering less cognitive stimulation to children of higher birth order.

THE BIRTH ORDER PUZZLE

It now seems clear that for those born and raised in high-income countries such as the United States, the UK and Norway, earlier-born children enjoy higher wages and education as adults—known as the “birth order effect”.

Comparing two siblings, the greater the difference in their birth order, the greater the relative benefit to the older child.
However, to date we’ve had no evidence that explains where such differences come from.

We know it’s not an effect of family size, because the effect remains when comparing siblings within the same family and families with the same number of children.

While it makes sense that parents earn more money and gain experience as they get older and have more children, they also need to divide their economic resources and attention among any children that arrive after the first born. We wondered where in childhood these differences began, and what the cause or causes might be.

THE ORIGINS OF THE BIRTH ORDER EFFECT

We investigated when birth order differences appear and how they evolve from birth to adolescence. The study involved a longitudinal analysis of around 5,000 American children.

Our findings suggest that birth order differences can start before the age of three. We see an effect of birth order on measures of the physical and social development of children. Such differences increase slightly with age, and show up in a wide array of test scores that measure verbal, reading, math and comprehension abilities.

Somewhat surprisingly, in both our study and in previous ones, there is no evidence that younger children are born disadvantaged: if anything, later-borns are actually on average heavier and healthier at birth. Thus, the birth order effect does not seem to be related to an obvious biological advantage at birth.

QUALITY OF PARENTAL INVESTMENT IS KEY

We explored changes in parental behaviour as a potential contributor to the birth order effect. Our assessment tool was the Home Observation Measurement of the Environment, which provides a measure of the quality of the cognitive stimulation and emotional support provided by a child’s family.

We found that children of higher order of birth—that is, those born second, third or further on from the first child—receive less quality parental cognitive stimulation. Our measures encompassed beneficial inputs for the child’s cognitive development, such as reading with the child, cultural outings, or availability of musical instruments in the house. They seem to make a difference.

Furthermore, this shift in parental behaviour appears to start in the womb. In pregnancies subsequent to their first, we found that mothers are less likely to reduce drinking and smoking or seek timely prenatal care. Once born, non-first-born babies are breastfed less often.

BIRTH ORDER DOES NOT SHAPE YOUR TEMPERAMENT

Contrary to popular belief, we did not find that birth order is associated with differences in temperament, attachment or behavioural problems among siblings. Regardless of birth position, we also found children to have the same overall self-confidence as teenagers.

Also, we did not see any evidence that parents make any distinction in the emotional support provided to each of their children. Parental interaction aimed at ensuring appropriate emotional development does not diminish for younger siblings.

RELAX, YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING!

Taken together, our findings suggest that a plausible explanation for the negative relation between birth order and educational achievement is a broad shift in parenting, especially with respect to parents’ ability to foster early cognitive development.

For most parents, it is probably not difficult to understand how and why parenting focus and behaviour changes with later-born children. Lessons from past experience and additional constraints on time, resources, and attention necessitate adjustments in attitudes and beliefs about what may be possible to accomplish as parents. Parents may choose to relax some non-essential rearing needs for their later born children.

These changes in parental behaviour appear to set later born children on a lower path for cognitive development and academic achievement, with lasting impact on adult economic outcomes.

But it’s not all bad news for the younger siblings out there. Regardless of where a child is positioned in terms of birth order, parents support emotional development in equal measure.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)

Marian Vidal-Fernandez
Marian Vidal-Fernandez is a senior lecturer in economics at the University of Sydney.

Ana Nuevo-Chiquero
Ana Nuevo-Chiquero is a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh.

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RELATED FROM THE SCIENTIFI AMERICAN

Negative Emotions Are Key to Well-Being By Tori Rodriguez on May 1, 2013 أعرض هذا باللغة العربية


Credit: SÉBASTIEN THIBAULT

Feeling sad, mad, critical or otherwise awful? Surprise: negative emotions are essential for mental health

A client sits before me, seeking help untangling his relationship problems. As a psychotherapist, I strive to be warm, nonjudgmental and encouraging. I am a bit unsettled, then, when in the midst of describing his painful experiences, he says, “I'm sorry for being so negative.”

A crucial goal of therapy is to learn to acknowledge and express a full range of emotions, and here was a client apologizing for doing just that. In my psychotherapy practice, many of my clients struggle with highly distressing emotions, such as extreme anger, or with suicidal thoughts.

In recent years I have noticed an increase in the number of people who also feel guilty or ashamed about what they perceive to be negativity. Such reactions undoubtedly stem from our culture's overriding bias toward positive thinking. Although positive emotions are worth cultivating, problems arise when people start believing they must be upbeat all the time.

READ MORE...

In fact, anger and sadness are an important part of life, and new research shows that experiencing and accepting such emotions are vital to our mental health. Attempting to suppress thoughts can backfire and even diminish our sense of contentment. “Acknowledging the complexity of life may be an especially fruitful path to psychological well-being,” says psychologist Jonathan M. Adler of the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering.

Meaningful Misery

Positive thoughts and emotions can, of course, benefit mental health. Hedonic theories define well-being as the presence of positive emotion, the relative absence of negative emotion and a sense of life satisfaction. Taken to an extreme, however, that definition is not congruent with the messiness of real life. In addition, people's outlook can become so rosy that they ignore dangers or become complacent [see “Can Positive Thinking Be Negative?” by Scott O. Lilienfeld and Hal Arkowitz; Scientific American Mind, May/June 2011].

Eudaemonic approaches, on the other hand, emphasize a sense of meaning, personal growth and understanding of the self—goals that require confronting life's adversities. Unpleasant feelings are just as crucial as the enjoyable ones in helping you make sense of life's ups and downs. “Remember, one of the primary reasons we have emotions in the first place is to help us evaluate our experiences,” Adler says.

Adler and Hal E. Hershfield, a professor of marketing at New York University, investigated the link between mixed emotional experience and psychological welfare in a group of people undergoing 12 sessions of psychotherapy. Before each session, participants completed a questionnaire that assessed their psychological well-being. They also wrote narratives describing their life events and their time in therapy, which were coded for emotional content.

As Adler and Hershfield reported in 2012, feeling cheerful and dejected at the same time—for example, “I feel sad at times because of everything I've been through, but I'm also happy and hopeful because I'm working through my issues”—preceded improvements in well-being over the next week or two for subjects, even if the mixed feelings were unpleasant at the time. “Taking the good and the bad together may detoxify the bad experiences, allowing you to make meaning out of them in a way that supports psychological well-being,” the researchers found.

Negative emotions also most likely aid in our survival. Bad feelings can be vital clues that a health issue, relationship or other important matter needs attention, Adler points out. The survival value of negative thoughts and emotions may help explain why suppressing them is so fruitless.

In a 2009 study psychologist David J. Kavanagh of Queensland University of Technology in Australia and his colleagues asked people in treatment for alcohol abuse and addiction to complete a questionnaire that assessed their drinking-related urges and cravings, as well as any attempts to suppress thoughts related to booze over the previous 24 hours.

They found that those who often fought against intrusive alcohol-related thoughts actually harbored more of them. Similar findings from a 2010 study suggested that pushing back negative emotions could spawn more emotional overeating than simply recognizing that you were, say, upset, agitated or blue.

Even if you successfully avoid contemplating a topic, your subconscious may still dwell on it. In a 2011 study psychologist Richard A. Bryant and his colleagues at the University of New South Wales in Sydney told some participants, but not others, to suppress an unwanted thought prior to sleep. Those who tried to muffle the thought reported dreaming about it more, a phenomenon called dream rebound.

Suppressing thoughts and feelings can even be harmful. In a 2012 study psychotherapist Eric L. Garland of Florida State University and his associates measured a stress response based on heart rate in 58 adults in treatment for alcohol dependence while exposing them to alcohol-related cues.

Subjects also completed a measure of their tendency to suppress thoughts. The researchers found that those who restrained their thinking more often had stronger stress responses to the cues than did those who suppressed their thoughts less frequently.

Accepting the Pain

Instead of backing away from negative emotions, accept them. Acknowledge how you are feeling without rushing to change your emotional state. Many people find it helpful to breathe slowly and deeply while learning to tolerate strong feelings or to imagine the feelings as floating clouds, as a reminder that they will pass. I often tell my clients that a thought is just a thought and a feeling just a feeling, nothing more.

If the emotion is overwhelming, you may want to express how you feel in a journal or to another person. The exercise may shift your perspective and bring a sense of closure. If the discomfort lingers, consider taking action. You may want to tell a friend her comment was hurtful or take steps to leave the job that makes you miserable.

You may also try doing mindfulness exercises to help you become aware of your present experience without passing judgment on it. One way to train yourself to adopt this state is to focus on your breathing while meditating and simply acknowledge any fleeting thoughts or feelings. This practice may make it easier to accept unpleasant thoughts [see “Being in the Now,” by Amishi P. Jha; Scientific American Mind, March/April 2013].

Earlier this year Garland and his colleagues found that among 125 individuals with a history of trauma who were also in treatment for substance dependence, those who were naturally more mindful both coped better with their trauma and craved their drug less. Likewise, in a 2012 study psychologist Shannon Sauer-Zavala of Boston University and her co-workers found that a therapy that included mindfulness training helped individuals overcome anxiety disorders. It worked not by minimizing the number of negative feelings but by training patients to accept those feelings.

“It is impossible to avoid negative emotions altogether because to live is to experience setbacks and conflicts,” Sauer-Zavala says. Learning how to cope with those emotions is the key, she adds. Indeed, once my client accepted his thoughts and feelings, shaking off his shame and guilt, he saw his problems with greater clarity and proceeded down the path to recovery.

This article was originally published with the title "Taking the Bad with the Good"


SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN

COGNITION People with Autism Make More Logical Decisions By Punit Shah, The Conversation on October 13, 2016


For illustration purposes only. Credit: MARTIN BARRAUD Getty Images

Experiments show lower emotional awareness lead to more rational choices

The following essay is reprinted with permission from The Conversation, an online publication covering the latest research.

Decisions are based on the way choices are framed. This is because people use emotion when making decisions, leading to some options feeling more desirable than others. For example, when given £50, we are more likely to gamble the money if we stand to lose £30 than if we are going to keep £20.The Conversation

Although both options are mathematically equivalent, the thought of losing money evokes a powerful emotional response and we are more likely to gamble to try to avoid losing money.

This cognitive bias, first described by the psychologist Daniel Kahneman in the 1980s, is known as the “framing effect”. Despite this phenomenon being well documented, scientists are still trying to understand why our emotions have such a powerful influence on decision making.

READ MORE...

My colleagues and I at King’s College London investigated how the perception of internal bodily sensations is related to emotion and how this may, in turn, be linked to how we make decisions. First, we gave a group of typical adults a gambling task to measure their susceptibility to the framing effect.

They were later asked to close their eyes and count their heartbeats to measure how well they monitored internal sensations. Their emotional awareness was also measured using a questionnaire. We discovered that people who were good at monitoring their heartbeat—people who “followed their heart”—were most guided by emotion and particularly susceptible to the framing effect.

But what about people with poor emotional awareness and difficulties monitoring their heartbeat? Research has shown that these things are impaired in people with alexithymia, otherwise known as “emotional blindness”. As emotional blindness is more common in people with autism, we tested a group of adults diagnosed with this condition. Replicating previous research, people with autism showed a smaller framing effect.

It was found that people with autism were able to monitor their heartbeat just as well as people without autism, but there was no relationship between how well they did this, or emotional awareness, and their susceptibility to the framing effect.

IGNORE YOUR HEART

This indicates that people with autism use a different strategy when making decisions. Instead of using intuition and emotion like people without autism, they were not following their heart and don’t use emotional information to guide their decisions.

Instead, they viewed differently framed, but numerically equivalent, options more rationally than typical people. So they gambled just as much as non-autistic people, but did so using the numerical information instead of making decisions based on how those numbers made them feel.

This demonstrates that “following your heart” is related to complex decision-making, which builds on recent work showing that heartbeat perception is linked to survival in the financial markets.

However, it also suggests that listening to your heart and being in touch with your emotions—usually seen as positive things—may lead to decisions that are not so rational.

Our findings add to evidence showing that people with autism think differently to typical people. Although this is related to the difficulties they experience in social situations, this different way of thinking may sometimes be advantageous in situations where it is it better to follow your head and not your heart.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)

Punit Shah
Punit Shah is a researcher at King's College London.


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