Psychologists have long known that first impressions really do matter—what we see, hear, feel, or experience in our first encounter with something colors how we process the rest of it. Articles are no exception. And just as people can manage the impression that they make through their choice of attire, so, too, can the crafting of the headline subtly shift the perception of the text that follows. By drawing attention to certain details or facts, a headline can affect what existing knowledge is activated in your head. By its choice of phrasing, a headline can influence your mindset as you read so that you later recall details that coincide with what you were expecting. For instance, the headline of this article I wrote—”A Gene That Makes You Need Less Sleep?”—is not inaccurate in any way. But it does likely prompt a focus on one specific part of the piece. If I had instead called it “Why We Need Eight Hours of Sleep,” people would remember it differently.
The later you go to bed at night, the more likely you are to be haunted by persistent, negative thoughts throughout the day, suggests a new study in Cognitive Therapy and Research led by Binghamton University psychologist Jacob A. Nota. He had 100 undergrads fill out surveys that asked about their sleep habits, what they worried most about, and how often they worried.
The students' average reported bedtime was 1 a.m., but some went to sleep as early as 10 p.m.; others stayed up as late as 5 a.m. After analyzing their responses, the researchers found an association between repetitive negative thinking and later bedtimes. Worrying was also linked with less time sleeping overall.
Throughout history, scientists have proposed conflicting ideas on how the brain carries out functions like perception, memory, and movement. Is each of these tasks carried out by a specific area of the brain? Or do multiple areas work together to accomplish them? Ted Altschuler investigates both sides of the debate.
Decisions are a big part of life in the 21st century. Never before have we had to make so many of them. Online shopping means you can purchase an item from anywhere and have it delivered conveniently to your doorstep. Dating sites like OkCupid and eHarmony give access to potential romantic partners from all around the world, while Amazon brings the world’s largest product warehouse onto your computer screen. The seemingly endless options may appear to be a blessing, but under certain circumstances, you can have too much of a good thing.
Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper conducted one of the first studies demonstrating the effects of “choice overload.” Using jam, essay topics, and chocolates, they found that people were more likely to make a choice — and be happy with that choice — when presented with fewer options. Paradoxically, despite the negative effects, people found the larger choice sets more appealing and enjoyable to choose from. Some have called this phenomenon the “tyranny of choice.”