Last Week’s Links

Falling for sleep

Sleep has been transformed from a deeply personal experience to a physiological process; from the mythical to the medical; and from the romantic to the marketable. Our misconstrued sense of sleep and consequent obsession with managing it are the most critical overlooked factors in the contemporary epidemic of sleep loss.

A look at the results of chronic sleep deprivation, which can lead to heart disease, neurodegenerative disorders, autoimmune illnesses, and depression.

sleeping baby

Rubin Naiman argues that wakism, our devotion to what we experience while awake, prevents us from appreciating the positive aspects of sleep.


Here’s a fascinating article on the concept of eudaemonic happiness, defined by Aristitle about 2,500 years ago:

In his Nicomachean Ethics, he described the idea of eudaemonic happiness, which said, essentially, that happiness was not merely a feeling, or a golden promise, but a practice. “It’s living in a way that fulfills our purpose,” Helen Morales, a classicist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told me. “It’s flourishing. Aristotle was saying, ‘Stop hoping for happiness tomorrow. Happiness is being engaged in the process.’ ” Now, thousands of years later, evidence that Aristotle may have been onto something has been detected in the most surprising of places: the human genome.

Psychologists continue to look for explanations and examples of this higher-order form of happiness, which differs from (but does not preclude) sensual pleasures such as a good pizza or a glass of good wine.

Study uncovers how exposure to social news videos affects behavior

Research into how internet-based delivery of social news produced some perhaps not surprising results:

in the positive social news condition, kindness and providing help are the most salient contents–these prime conventional norms mean more altruistic behaviors as well as a greater tolerance for opponents defecting during the prisoner’s dilemma game. In the negative social news condition, harm towards innocent people and unethical behavior are signs of rule violations and lower moral levels. This leads to a greater propensity to break the rules and cheat.

The 9 Biggest Myths About Creativity You Should Never Believe

Some of the most common adages are not true at all. Here are nine aspects of traditional knowledge about creativity that are wrong, at least in the business setting:

  1. Innovation = creativity
  2. Innovation = entrepreneurship and startups
  3. You were either born creative or not
  4. There is nothing you can do to increase innovation organically in your company
  5. You need to drive innovation
  6. You need to build an innovation space and allocate time for creativity
  7. Financial incentives increase creativity
  8. Innovation requires significant resources and funding
  9. Innovation initiatives need to be implemented throughout the entire organization


© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Psychology Round-Up

How The Impact Bias Affects Your Expectations Of Happiness

It seems to make sense that an extreme experience, such as a catastrophic injury, would affect our future level of happiness. But, writes James Clear, the truth is much more counter-intuitive. Research has shown that six months after a traumatic event, people’s happiness levels are about the same as they were before the event.

The inaccuracy of our expectations about how major experiences will affect us is called the impact bias:

Researchers refer to this as the “impact bias” because we tend to overestimate the length or intensity of happiness that major events will create. The impact bias is one example of affective forecasting, which is a social psychology phenomenon that refers to our generally terrible ability as humans to predict our future emotional states.

Moreover, the impact bias applies to positive experiences, such as winning the lottery, as well as to negative ones.

Read why Clear draws the following two conclusions from a study of the impact bias:

  • First, we have a tendency to focus on the thing that changes and forget about the things that don’t change
  • Second, a challenge is an impediment to a particular thing, not to you as a person

The Benefits of Getting Comfortable With Uncertainty

Back in 1971, when my husband and I left our families in New England for St. Louis, where he would attend school and I would start my first teaching job, my mother-in-law hosted a “happy/sad party.” She was happy that we were going to start our new life together, but sad that we were going so far away.

Even though we naturally seek clarity, it’s important to understand that people, including ourselves, can feel contradictory emotions about a single situation or event. In his article for The Atlantic, Julie Beck interviews Jamie Holmes, author of Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing, about “the many ways that uncertainty shapes people’s behavior, and what gets lost when people seek clarity above all else.”

Says Holmes:

I think the reason why ambivalence is just downplayed in general, is because we don’t like ambiguity. We don’t like to think of intentions as fluid or ambivalent and I think they are, far more often than we acknowledge.

For True Freedom, Learn to Deal With Uncertainty

In the New York Times, financial planner Carl Richards discusses the uncertainty of a life in which our fortunes fluctuate in relation to the economic conditions of a particular time. He bought a house that appreciated quickly in value, then borrowed against the equity in the house to start a business. But when the economy tanked, his house became worth less than he had paid for it and his business, closely tied to the local economy, floundered as well. But a couple of years later, his life changed again: “He now has superpositive net worth. His relationships are better than ever.”

Richards writes that he has asked himself many times what he did wrong to deserve the bad experience and what he did right to deserve the the better experience. But deserve, he says, is loaded language. It’s a myth that we “deserve” any specific outcome:

For years, many of us have believed this myth. In reality, life is irreducibly uncertain. That doesn’t make us more or less successful or more or less happy. The true joy in life, the real peace, comes when we let go of the idea that we deserve a predetermined happy ending.

Whatever the goal, we can learn to trust ourselves and deal with the reality of uncertainty. And for me that’s become the definition of true freedom.