Tag : behaviour

Holding doors open for men is likely to clash with their masculine identity and leave them deflated, psychologists claim.

If a man wants to bring a rival down a peg or two, he simply has to hold the   door open for him.

open door for man

While the gesture of goodwill might be seen as gentlemanly when it is done for a woman, psychologists claim it is likely to diminish a man’s self esteem.

Since it is unusual for men to hold open the door for men, it could be taken to imply that the recipient looks needy and vulnerable.

The act is likely to clash with their masculine identity and leave them deflated, Professor Janice Kelly and Megan McCarty, of Purdue University in Indiana, suggested.

Their study, published in the journal Social Influence, found no evidence that women were affected in a similar way when men held doors open for them.

“These results demonstrate negative consequences of seemingly innocuous… helping behaviour that violates gender norms,” the researchers said.

A recent study has found women have higher  levels of Foxp2 protein. The research team from the University of Maryland found male rats – the chattier gender in rodents – make more of the protein than their female counterparts.

Ladies, the next time your being chastised for talking too much, before saying that women don’t talk more you should read on and explain to him at length that its all because of the Foxp2 protein.

It has already been claimed that women speak about 20,000 words a day approximately 13,000 more than the average man. But now scientists have found the key to  explaining why women are more talkative.

A research paper suggests that higher levels of the protein are found in the female brain. US researchers found that those with  more  Foxp2, known as the ‘language protein’, in their brains were more talkative.  Among humans that was women, but in rats its the males. The researchers set out to determine  what might make male rats more vocal than their female cage mates. They  separated four-day-old pups from their mothers and counted the number of times they cried out. Both male and female pups emitted  hundreds of cries, but the males called out twice as often. As a result, when the pups  were put back in the same cage as their mother, she fussed over her sons first.

Researchers found the so-called ‘language protein’ that  makes women more talkative also causes male rats to be more vocal than their  female cage mates. Tests on the parts of the brain known  to be  involved in vocal calls showed the male pups to have up to twice  as much Foxp2 protein as the females. The researchers then ramped up its  production in the brains of female pups and reduced it in males. This  led to the female rats crying out more often and their mothers showing more interest to them. The males in contrast, became less ‘talkative’, the Journal of Neuroscience reports.

Next, the University of Maryland researchers tested samples from ten boys and girls aged  between three  and five. This showed the girls to have 30 per cent more of the Foxp2 protein than the boys, in a brain area key to language in  humans.

Researcher Margaret McCarthy said:  ‘Based on  our observations, we postulate higher levels of Foxp2 in girls and higher levels  of Foxp2 in male rats is an indication that Foxp2  protein levels are associated  with the more communicative sex.’

Studies have shown that the women like to talk from an early age. Girls learn to speak earlier and more quickly than boys. They produce their first words and sentences earlier, have larger vocabularies and use a greater variety of sentence types than boys of the same age. However, Simon Fisher, one of the  Oxford  team who first pinpointed the protein, cautioned against drawing big conclusions from a study of such a small number of children.

Ever notice how anger helps a man command a room, but it often has the opposite effect for women?

While the former comes off as passionate, the latter is often remembered as emotionally erratic, an outcome predictable enough to make any woman angry. (Can someone say vicious cycle?)

But there may be a way out, if a new book by John Neffinger and Matthew Kohut is any indication. In Compelling Peoplethe authors posit that what makes individuals captivating is their ability to communicate both strength and warmth, but they recognize that it’s a fine balance — and that balancing act is trickier for women.

As a passionate feminist writer who covers gender in politics, this wasn’t news to me. It’s hard to remember in the wake of Sydney Leathers, but before Anthony Weiner went into complete and utter auto-destruct mode, he was highly regarded by voters for his audacity and unflinching boldness. I remember working in a non-profit organization in D.C. where my coworkers would huddle up at lunch to watch the emboldened congressman ripping Republicans to shreds on the floor over a law for 9/11 heroes, or women’s reproductive freedom, or public funding for NPR. The more he lost his temper, the more he rose in stature to us.

When Senator Claire McCaskill showed half the amount of competitiveness and confidence during the 2012 general election, she was told that “she was very aggressive” that she used to be much “more lady-like.“ It was a similar story in 2008, when Hillary Clinton, a front-runner for the democratic presidential candidacy, was called “too angry to be elected president” by a prominent Republican. A look back at Clinton’s years as First Lady and as a U.S. senator shows that she was met with even more vitriol for being assertive.

In their book Compelling People, Neffinger and Kohut cite a study that showed that Hillary Clinton “has been the butt of more jokes than any other human being, living or dead”. Surprisingly, the woman nicknamed “Chillary” by comedians and politicians alike, climbed in the polls after the Lewinsky scandal “because a significant part of the public sympathized with her as an aggrieved yet loyal wife, even if she did not outwardly radiate warmth.” This poll trend sends a troubling message about what it means to be a prominent, powerful woman. Could it be that the only way to get the public’s sympathy if you’re a strong woman is to be cheated on?

In the public’s eye, anger doesn’t look as appealing on women as it does on men. Although John Neffinger and Matthew Kohut argue that compelling people must exude strength and warmth to get respect and recognition, they explain that gender stereotypes make this role harder to navigate for women. Because strength is traditionally associated with masculinity, strong women are seen in a negative light.

Neffinger and Kohut’s research explains why someone like Elizabeth Warren has been called “unnecessarily aggressive,” with a YouTube that is actually titled “Why Is Everyone Afraid Of Elizabeth Warren?”

This double standard is even worse for women of color, who are already too often boxed into the category of the “angry black woman.” For evidence, one need look no further than to Michelle Obama’s rather neutral response to a heckler, which was grossly exaggerated in the media.

The media freely admits to this imbalance. On Morning Joe, Joanna Coles, Cosmopolitan‘s editor-in-chief, noted that sexism is obvious in the way that the media tells stories “Male congressmen, male senators are always described as ‘stating’ something in the House. Women senators and congresswomen are always described as ‘complaining’. Women are emotional; men are somehow stoic,” she said.

In other words, a man is angry because he cares, while a woman is angry because she’s an emotional wreck.

As Neffinger and Kohut point out, men who are angry don’t only get more respect, status, and better job titles — they also get higher pay Despite the fact that men can use anger to achieve status, women may need to be calm in order to come off as rational. You know, so that people don’t think they’re PMS-ing, or whatever.

So, what’s the solution?

John Neffinger and Matthew Kohut think it’s not up to women to conform by replacing strength with warmth, but rather to increase their expression of both. They cite Oprah Winfrey and Ann Richards as masters of this fine balance.

Although our culture is still largely uncomfortable with angry women, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. For instance, we are becoming more comfortable with Hillary Clinton’s impassioned speeches, like the one she gave at the Benghazi hearing. Even Elizabeth Warren’s impatience with the government shutdown had seemed to at least correlate with her steady climb in the polls. In an interview, John Neffinger told me he is hopeful because Warren has an “ability to tear hypocrites’s argument to pieces with a lilting folksy cadence and a friendly smile.” All of the pictures being shared of her within her base ”pointing angrily with her brow in full furrow” is a sure sign that she has managed to “appeal to everybody.”

If Neffinger is right, maybe we’ve all calmed down about angry women. I certainly hope so, because as Elizabeth Warren well knows, there’s plenty for all of us to be angry about. We’ll need strong, warm, passionate women like her to help lead us out of the mess we’re in.

This article originally appeared on PolicyMic.

Even the smallest dose of power can change a person. You’ve probably seen it. Someone gets a promotion or a bit of fame and then, suddenly, they’re a little less friendly to the people beneath them.

So here’s a question that may seem too simple: Why?

If you ask a psychologist, he or she may tell you that the powerful are simply too busy. They don’t have the time to fully attend to their less powerful counterparts.

But if you ask Sukhvinder Obhi, a neuroscientist at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada, he might give you another explanation: Power fundamentally changes how the brain operates.

Obhi and his colleagues, Jeremy Hogeveen and Michael Inzlicht, have a new study showing evidence to support that claim.

Obhi and his fellow researchers randomly put participants in the mindset of feeling either powerful or powerless. They asked the powerless group to write a diary entry about a time they depended on others for help. The powerful group wrote entries about times they were calling the shots.

Then, everybody watched a simple video. In it, an anonymous hand squeezes a rubber ball a handful of times — sort of monotonously. While the video ran, Obhi’s team tracked the participants’ brains, looking at a special region called the mirror system.

Where Empathy Begins

The mirror system is important because it contains neurons that become active both when you squeeze a rubber ball and when you watch someone else squeeze a rubber ball. It is the same thing with picking up a cup of coffee, hitting a baseball, or flying a kite. Whether you do it or someone else does, your mirror system activates. In this small way, the mirror system places you inside a stranger’s head.

Furthermore, because our actions are linked to deeper thoughts — like beliefs and intentions — you may also begin to empathize with what motivates another person’s actions.

“When I watch somebody picking up a cup of coffee, the mirror system activates the representations in my brain that would be active if I was picking up a cup of coffee,” Obhi explains. “And because those representations are connected in my brain to the intentions that would normally activate them, you can get activation of the intention. So you can figure out, ‘Hey, this person wants to drink coffee.’ ”

Obhi’s team wanted to see if bestowing a person with a feeling of power or powerlessness would change how the mirror system responds to someone else performing a simple action.

Feeling Power Over Others

It turns out, feeling powerless boosted the mirror system — people empathized highly. But, Obhi says, “when people were feeling powerful, the signal wasn’t very high at all.”

So when people felt power, they really did have more trouble getting inside another person’s head.

“What we’re finding is power diminishes all varieties of empathy,” says Dacher Keltner, a social psychologist at University of California, Berkeley, not involved in the new study. He says these results fit a trend within psychological research.

“Whether you’re with a team at work [or] your family dinner, all of that hinges on how we adapt our behaviors to the behaviors of other people,” he says. “And power takes a bite out of that ability, which is too bad.”

The good news, Keltner says, is an emerging field of research that suggests powerful people who begin to forget their subordinates can be coached back to their compassionate selves.

Just in case you needed any further evidence and commentary on whether smartphones are emasculating, Sergey Brin gives his thoughts while give a TED talk on Google Glass (above).

He explained the motivation behind Google Glass saying that he didn’t think  the best way to interact with people and technology was by staring into a  phone.

Sergey Brin Google Glass

He also said he thinks there’s something emasculating about the smartphone.  You’re just rubbing this featureless piece of glass. As we noted back in  February, it’s a weird choice of words since it somehow suggests  Google Glass is manly.

“Is Your iPhone Turning You Into a Wimp?” is the provocative title of an article from Harvard Business School’s Monday newsletter, Working Knowledge, and in it you can hear echoes of Sergey Brin’s contention that smartphones are “emasculating.” But this time, our smarter-than-thou technologies aren’t sapping our confidence by making us depend on them, like megalomaniacal red wheelbarrows. They’re changing the hormonal chemistry of our brains through our posture.  

I’ve written before on the Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy and power poses—I’ve even tried them out, at some cost to my dignity but gain to my dry-cleaning pickup skills. The idea is that certain body stances, such as standing with your legs apart and your hands on your hips, or opening up your chest area, bathe your cortex in testosterone, a hormone associated with assertiveness and the willingness to take risks. Meanwhile, they also reduce cortisol, the stress hormone. On the other hand, low power poses—crossing your arms over your chest, say, or bunching your shoulders—increase neural levels of cortisol and reduce testosterone, resulting in more stress and less confidence.

How is this relevant to an afternoon frittered away in the company of cute pigs and Angry Birds? All that time spent hunched over a tiny screen might actually drain your confidence by forcing you into a low power position, according to a new study by Cuddy and Maarten Bos, a post-doctoral research fellow at Harvard Business School. Bos and Cuddy asked 75 volunteers to perform a battery of tasks on one of four randomly assigned devices: an iPod touch (small), an iPad (a bit bigger), a Macbook Pro laptop (even bigger), or an iMac desktop (biggest).

According to Working Knowledge’s Carmen Nobel:

After five minutes of using the assigned device to take an online survey, each participant was given two dollars, along with the choice of keeping it or gambling it in a double-or-nothing gambling game with 50/50 odds. Next, the participant continued with a few other tasks and a final questionnaire, all on the assigned device.

The question: Would people who played the betting game on bigger screens get a confidence boost from their superior, expansive posture? Would they be likelier to gamble?

The answer: Nope. (“The experiments showed no apparent effect on participants’ gambling behavior,” reports Nobel.) But the study wasn’t over. After the game, a researcher instructed each participant to wait while he (the researcher) fetched some forms. “If I am not here in five minutes, please come get me at the front desk,” he told them. Sneakily, though, he did not return after five minutes. He stood at the front desk for a maximum of 10 minutes, keeping track of whether and when each participant arrived to meet him. Nobel:

Of the participants using a desktop computer, 94 percent took the initiative to fetch the experimenter. For those using the iPod Touch, only 50 percent left the room.

What’s more, among those who did leave the room, the amount of time they waited to do so increased as the size of the screen decreased. For instance, while iPod Touch users lingered for an average of 493 seconds before going off in search of the researcher, the average desktop user stuck around for only 341 seconds.

What’s going on here? Bos and Cuddy hypothesized that it takes some time for the effects of good or bad posture to sink in, which would explain why screen width didn’t seem to influence betting behavior, but did correlate with how aggressively participants sought out the tardy experimenter. (Previous studies show that people are more likely to gamble after assuming high power poses and less likely after taking up low power poses.) I also wonder whether using a personal device like an iPod Touch or iPad made the research setting seem less formal. If so, perhaps the researcher’s charge not to wait around, but to “come find me at the front desk” translated as friendly politeness, rather than as another instruction. Or maybe working off a large monitor boosted confidence in a way that bypassed power posing entirely. (Think guys who feel like Kings of the Universe when they take the wheel of an SUV.)

Given how much time we spend interacting with various screens, though, it is helpful to know that lolling in front of a large glowing window could be preferable (from a confidence perspective) to hovering crampedly over a small glowing one. Unless you are a tardy experimenter, that is. Then maybe you should force all your test subjects to painstakingly twist out answers on an Etch-a-Sketch keychain—they’ll never bother you again.

Katy Waldman at Slate

Men cannot be blamed for looking at other women as it is in their genes to find strangers more attractive, a study has suggested.

New research shows that while women are drawn to male faces that look familiar, men are more likely to rate someone they have never seen before as more attractive.

It is thought the reason may be that men have evolved to maximise their reproductive success by mating with as many partners as possible.

Researchers at the University of Stirling and the University of Glasgow came up with the findings after showing men and women pictures of dozens of different faces. The more women in the study saw pictures of the same man’s face, the more attracted they were to him.

But the study, published in Archives of Sexual Behaviour, found that the men who took part rated the women as less attractive when they saw them for a second time.

Researchers say the results may be partly explained by the so-called Coolidge effect – where men are aroused by the novelty of a new sexual partner more than women.

It’s named after an anecdote attributed to 30th US President Calvin Coolidge.

During a farm visit, when his wife was told there was only one cockerel and many hens because the cockerel would mate several times a day, she reportedly said: ‘Tell that to Mr Coolidge’.

When the president asked if it was with the same hen each time and told no he allegedly said: ‘Tell that to Mrs Coolidge.’

Anthony Little from Stirling University’s School of Natural Sciences, said: “Men found female faces they had already seen as less attractive and less sexy, especially for short-term relationships.

“There is a tendency for males to pursue a large number of partners as they can dramatically increase their reproductive success by mating with multiple females.”

Money corrupts, they say, and now there’s a study that shows why people get  so sneaky when it comes to making a profit.


The research, which was published in the journal Organizational Behavior  and Human Decision Processes, revealed that people doubled the number of  lies they told in order to earn extra cash if they were first prompted to think  about money. The study involved more than 300 business students who participated  in several experiments, all of which showed that cuing people to consider money  increased either unethical intentions or actions.

“Our research suggests that we may be vulnerable to some influences that  we’re not aware of,” says study co-author Kristen Smith-Crowe, associate  professor of management at the David Eccles School of Business at the University  of Utah, “Our moral behavior may be affected by things in the environment that  we have no idea are affecting us.”

The students were randomly assigned to think about either money or about  nothing in particular by descrambling sentences; the money-related sentences  included phrases such as “She spends money liberally” while those unrelated to  cash included “She walked on grass.”

In one trial involving 50 participants, those who reconstructed the  money-related sentences were far more likely to say they would do things like  steal a ream of paper from the office copy machine than those who worked with  the unrelated sentences. In another test involving 91 students, participants  played a game in which they could either lie to a person they were told was  another player and earn $5 or tell the truth and earn $2.  Students cued to  consider money told twice as many lies.

In the final study, 65 business undergrads— with an average of 3 years full  time work experience— were asked to  place themselves in the position of  considering candidates for employment. They were presented with the case of a  qualified applicant who offered to provide confidential information that would  benefit the company if hired. Again, those primed to think about money were more  likely to hire the unethical candidate. Similarly, those who worked with the  money-related sentences were also more likely to cheat in a game that was rigged  to reward them regardless of whether they played by the rules or not.

But the students could have simply been acting out of self-interest, so to  determine if the students were just being selfish, or whether they were more  motivated by the need to maximize profit and gain — admirable goals in the  commerce-oriented business world — the researchers also conducted other tests to  separate personal greed from a “just doing business” position. They found that a  business mindset was more closely linked to unethical intentions and behaviors  than were feelings related to power, competition or simply looking out for  oneself.

“The main point is a ‘wow’ finding – that small and unnoticeable reminders of  money can produce lying, cheating, and essentially stealing 10 minutes later.  That is really fascinating,” says Kathleen Vohs, professor of marketing at the  University of Minnesota, who has conducted similar research but was not  associated with this study.

Why would thoughts of money increase misbehavior? “[Money cues] trigger this  business decision frame [like seeing the world only through] a cost/benefit  analysis and the significance is that we’re not considering other things like  moral issues,” says Smith-Crowe.

The research adds to prior work connecting wealth, greed and unethical  behavior; one series of studies found that those who were rich were more likely  to engage in sketchy actions, ranging from shoplifting, cutting people off in  their cars to lying to job seekers to giving less to charity proportionally than  those who were less well off.

In one study, this connection was explained almost entirely by the  more common belief among the wealthy that greed — or love of money — was good,  and an admirable quality, rather than by class itself. When the research was  published, author Paul Piff of the University of California in Berkeley told me,  “We’re not arguing that rich people are bad at all, but that psychological  features of wealth have these natural effects.”

Which may explain why money is so often seen as corrupting and having a  negative influence on people’s behavior. That doesn’t bode well for a population  living in an increasingly uncertain and highly unequal economy, where more  relationships have become transactional and the “just business” strategy, rather  than a morally driven one, seems to make more sense. “A lot of the socialization  [into working in business] involves ideas like maximizing profits and  shareholder wealth,” says Smith-Crowe,  “We want to ask the question, and  we’re just starting on research in this:  Can people’s concepts of business  be changed so we can extend them to include moral considerations?”

One can only hope.


Maia Szalavitz is a neuroscience journalist for TIME.com and co-author of  Born  for Love: Why Empathy Is Essential — and Endangered.