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Top 10 Psychology Studies from 2010

David DiS­al­vo, a sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy writer whose posts we share with you reg­u­lar­ly, has just pub­lished his selec­tion of the 2010 psy­chol­o­gy stud­ies real­ly worth know­ing about.

A great tour of the brain and psy­chol­o­gy that leads us from how many of our wak­ing hours are ded­i­cat­ed to day dream­ing, how the impres­sion we are try­ing to give when meet­ing some­one influ­ences how we eval­u­ate the oth­er per­son, to how a con­fi­dent pos­ture gives a bio­chem­i­cal advan­tage that increas­es feel­ings of pow­er and tol­er­ance of risk. Enjoy!

Train your brain to focus on positive experiences

(Editor’s Note: we are pleased to bring you this arti­cle thanks to our col­lab­o­ra­tion with Greater Good Mag­a­zine).

The Neuroscience of Happiness

Best-sell­ing author Rick Han­son explains how we can rewire
our brains for last­ing hap­pi­ness
By Michael Bergeisen

We’ve all been there: obsess­ing over a faux pas we com­mit­ted at a par­ty, infu­ri­at­ed by an unkind word from a col­league, rumi­nat­ing over a tough break-up with a spouse or friend. We suf­fer some misfortune—big or small, real or imagined—and the pain or humil­i­a­tion sticks with us for hours, days, or even years after­ward.

The mind is like Vel­cro for neg­a­tive expe­ri­ences,” psy­chol­o­gist Rick Han­son is fond of say­ing, “and Teflon for pos­i­tive ones.”

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Draw­ing on some of the lat­est find­ings from neu­ro­science, Han­son has spent years explor­ing how we can over­come our brain’s nat­ur­al “neg­a­tiv­i­ty bias” and learn to inter­nal­ize pos­i­tive expe­ri­ences more deeply—while min­i­miz­ing the harm­ful phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal effects of dwelling on the neg­a­tive.

For years, research has shown that, over time, our expe­ri­ences lit­er­al­ly reshape our brains and can change our ner­vous sys­tems, for bet­ter or worse. Now, neu­ro­sci­en­tists and psy­chol­o­gists like Han­son are zero­ing in on how we can take advan­tage of this “plas­tic­i­ty” of the brain to cul­ti­vate and sus­tain pos­i­tive emo­tions.

In his recent book, the best-sell­ing Buddha’s Brain: The Prac­ti­cal Neu­ro­science of Hap­pi­ness, Love, and Wis­dom, Han­son describes spe­cif­ic prac­tices that can pro­mote last­ing joy, equa­nim­i­ty, and compassion—and backs it all up with sound sci­ence.

Han­son recent­ly spoke with host Michael Bergeisen about some of these very prac­ti­cal, research-based steps we can all take to rewire our brains for last­ing hap­pi­ness. Below we present a con­densed ver­sion of the dis­cus­sion. Read the rest of this entry »

Lie to Me, Paul Ekman and Biofeedback

You may have watched the new series Lie To Me, with Tim Roth, based on the work of Paul Ekman.

The sec­ond episode, which you can watch for free via Hulu.com Here, is pret­ty inter­est­ing, but the best part hap­pens in the begin­ning, so you only need to watch a few min­utes to learn why what are called “lie detec­tors” are noth­ing but biofeed­back sys­tems that mea­sure phys­i­o­log­i­cal anx­i­ety.

Biofeed­back can be a very effec­tive train­ing tool for emo­tion­al self-reg­u­la­tion and stress man­age­ment, pre­cise­ly because it enables a faster feed­back-based learn­ing loop. Indeed, we are see­ing a grow­ing num­ber of appli­ca­tions in the mar­ket, with names such as EmWave, StressEras­er, RES­PeR­ATE, Jour­ney to the Wild Divine, and oth­ers.

Sim­ply, don’t believe the tech­nol­o­gy is an effec­tive lie detec­tor.

Car­o­line and I wrote an arti­cle on Paul Ekman’s work a cou­ple of years ago — let me repub­lish it now, giv­en his work has made it all the way to main­stream TV!

braintop Paul Ekman has con­duct­ed exten­sive research on iden­ti­fy­ing emo­tions through facial expres­sions. As part of that research, and as part of the pow­er of dis­ci­pline and train­ing, he learned how to con­scious­ly manip­u­late 42 facial mus­cles, includ­ing many that in most of us are beyond our con­trol, and even aware­ness.

In the 60s and 70s when Ekman began look­ing into the uni­ver­sal­i­ty of facial expres­sions, all the major con­tem­po­rary social sci­en­tists, like Mar­garet Mead, believed that expres­sions were cul­tur­al­ly learned, not innate. He trav­eled all over the world with pic­tures of peo­ple mak­ing dis­tinct facial expres­sions and found peo­ple in cul­tures every­where, from mod­ern to stone age, agreed on the emo­tion behind the expres­sion. He then turned to Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Research Interview Series

We are work­ing on improv­ing sev­er­al sec­tions of our web­site, espe­cial­ly our Resources sec­tion. It will look much bet­ter in a few days. Our first step has been to re-orga­nize our Neu­ro­science Inter­view Series, and below you have how it looks today.

Dur­ing the last 18 months I have had the for­tune to inter­view over 15 cut­ting-edge neu­ro­sci­en­tists and cog­ni­tive psy­chol­o­gists on their research and thoughts. Here are some of our favorite quotes (you can read the full inter­view notes by click­ing on the links):

Read the rest of this entry »

Blogging at the Huffington Post

Great news: I have been invit­ed to be one of the blog­gers at that fun news and blog­ging exper­i­ment called The Huff­in­g­ton Post. I appre­ci­ate very much the oppor­tu­ni­ty to engage a broad­er com­mu­ni­ty around the lat­est research on brain fit­ness and the brain fit­ness mar­ket, and around how to “exer­cise our brains” for hap­pi­ness, health, life­long learning and peak per­for­mance.

You can take a look at the first post: How “Say­ing Thanks” Will Make You Hap­pi­er.

SharpBrains.com/blog will keep being our main blog. Thank you for all your sup­port!

Watch All Recordings Now (40+ Speakers, 12+ Hours)

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters and more, SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking health and performance applications of brain science.

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