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The Disappointment Of An Apology

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We all want an apology when someone does us wrong. But a new study, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds that people aren't very good at predicting how much they'll value an apology.

Apologies have been in the news a lot the last few years in the context of the financial crisis, says David De Cremer of Erasmus University in the Netherlands. He cowrote the study with Chris Reinders Folmer of Erasmus University and Madan M. Pillutla of London Business School. "Banks didn't want to apologize because they didn't feel guilty but, in the public eye, banks were guilty," De Cremer says. But even when some banks and CEOs did apologize, the public didn't seem to feel any better. "We wondered, what was the real value of an apology?"

De Cremer and his colleagues used an experiment to examine how people think about apologies. Volunteers sat at a computer and were given 10 euros to either keep or give to a partner, with whom they communicated via computer. The money was tripled so that the partner received 30 euros. Then the partner could choose how much to give back - but he or she only gave back five euros. Some of the volunteers were given an apology for this cheap offer, while others were told to imagine they'd been given an apology.

The people who imagined an apology valued it more than people who actually received an apology. This suggests that people are pretty poor forecasters when it comes down to what is needed to resolve conflicts. Although they want an apology and thus rate it as highly valuable, the actual apology is less satisfying than predicted.

"I think an apology is a first step in the reconciliation process," De Cremer says. But "you need to show that you will do something else." He and his authors speculate that, because people imagine that apologies will make them feel better than they do, an apology might actually be better at convincing outside observers that the wrongdoer feels bad than actually making the wronged party feel better.

Source:
Keri Chiodo
Association for Psychological Science

 

Could Chocolate Be The New "Super Fruit"?

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It is widely known that fruit contains antioxidants which may be beneficial to health. New research published in the open access journal Chemistry Central Journal demonstrates that chocolate is a rich source of antioxidants and contains more polyphenols and flavanols than fruit juice.

When researchers at the Hershey Center for Health & Nutrition™ compared the antioxidant activity in cocoa powder and fruit powders they found that, gram per gram, there was more antioxidant capacity, and a greater total flavanol content, in the cocoa powder.

Similarly when they compared the amount of antioxidants, per serving, of dark chocolate, cocoa, hot chocolate mix and fruit juices they found that both dark chocolate and cocoa had a greater antioxidant capacity and a greater total flavanol, and polyphenol, content than the fruit juices. However hot chocolate, due to processing (alkalization) of the chocolate, contained little of any.

Dr Debra Miller, the senior author of the paper, says that, "Cacao seeds are a "Super Fruit" providing nutritive value beyond that of their macronutrient composition". Which is great news for chocolate lovers.

Notes:

Cacao seeds are a "Super Fruit": A comparative analysis of various fruit powders and products Stephen J. Crozier, Amy G. Preston, W. Jeffrey Hurst, Mark J. Payne, Julie Mann, Larry Hainly and Debra L. Miller Chemistry Central Journal (in press)

Source:
Dr. Hilary Glover
BioMed Central

 

Imaging Study Shows Love Can Last

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Can science prove that romantic love can last? A new study led by Bianca Acevedo, Ph.D., and Arthur Aron, Ph.D., of the Department of Psychology at Stony Brook University, and colleagues, compared the neural correlates of long-term married and in love individuals with individuals who had recently fallen in love. They discovered highly similar brain activity in regions associated with reward, motivation and "wanting" in both sets of couples. In an article titled, "Neural correlates of long-term intense romantic love," reported online in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, the study is the first to image and analyze the neural correlates of people in long-term romantic love and could give scientists clues as to why couples stay in love.

The research team used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of 10 women and 7 men who reported that they were still intensely in love with their spouse after an average of 21 years of marriage. Participants viewed facial images of their partner, and control images including a close friend, a highly-familiar acquaintance, and a low-familiar person. Brain activity was measured while participants viewed the facial images.

The researchers then compared the fMRI imaging results with those from an earlier experiment (Aron et al., 2005) that used similar fMRI scanning methods with 10 women and 7 men who had fallen madly in love within the past year.

"We found many very clear similarities between those who were in love long term and those who had just fallen madly in love," says Dr. Aron, referring to key reward and motivation regions of the brain, largely parts of the dopamine-rich ventral tegmental area (VTA). "In this latest study, the VTA showed greater response to images of a long-term partner when compared with images of a close friend or any of the other facial images."

"Interestingly, the same VTA region showed greater activation for those in the long-term couple group who scored especially high on romantic love scales and a closeness scale based on questionnaires," adds Dr. Acevedo.

Overall, Drs. Acevedo and Aron explain that the brain imaging data on the long-term couples suggest that reward-value associated with a long-term partner may be sustained, similar to new love. Additionally, the results support theories proposing that there might be specific brain mechanisms by which romantic love is sustained in some long-term relationships.

While the mysteries of romantic love and how love can be maintained long term may never be fully understood by humans, Drs. Acevedo and Aron believe that the study provides evidence and possibly powerful clues to what may be essential activity in the brain for love to last.

Some other novel results from the study include: greater closeness with the partner was associated with activity reflecting reward and motivation (in the VTA and substantia nigra), as well as human awareness (middle insula and anterior cingulate cortex); relationship length was significantly associated with activity of the ventral and dorsal striatum, similar to individuals who yearn for a deceased loved one or experience cocaine-induced high, thus linking attachment bonds with addiction-related properties; and sexual frequency was positively associated with activity of the posterior hippocampus, in an area found in studies of hunger and craving, as well as for obsession and early-stage love.

Drs. Acevedo and Aron's co-authors of the study include: Helen E. Fisher, Ph.D., Department of Anthropology, Rutgers University, and Lucy L. Brown, Ph.D., Department of Neurology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Source: Stony Brook University

 

Couples Sometimes Communicate No Better Than Strangers

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Married people may think they communicate well with their partners, but psychologists have found that they don't always convey messages to their loved ones as well as they think and in some cases, the spouses communicate no better than strangers.

The same communication problem also is true with close friends, a recent study has found.

"People commonly believe that they communicate better with close friends than with strangers. That closeness can lead people to overestimate how well they communicate, a phenomenon we term the 'closeness-communication bias,'" said Boaz Keysar, a professor in psychology at the University of Chicago and a leading expert on communications.

Keysar's colleague Kenneth Savitsky, professor of psychology at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., devised an experiment resembling a parlor game to study the issue. In it, two sets of couples sat in chairs with their backs to each other and tried to discern the meaning of each other's ambiguous phrases. In all, 24 married couples participated.

The researchers used phrases common in everyday conversations to see if the spouses were better at understanding phrases from their partners than from people they did not know. The spouses consistently overestimated their ability to communicate, and did so more with their partners than with strangers.

"A wife who says to her husband, 'it's getting hot in here,' as a hint for her husband to turn up the air conditioning a notch, may be surprised when he interprets her statement as a coy, amorous advance instead," said Savitsky, who is lead author of the paper, "The Closeness-Communications Bias: Increased Egocentrism among Friends versus Strangers," published in the January issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

"Although speakers expected their spouse to understand them better than strangers, accuracy rates for spouses and strangers were statistically identical. This result is striking because speakers were more confident that they were understood by their spouse," Savitsky said.

"Some couples may indeed be on the same wavelength, but maybe not as much as they think. You get rushed and preoccupied, and you stop taking the perspective of the other person, precisely because the two of you are so close," he said.

Savitsky conducted a similar experiment with 60 Williams College students. In the study, the students overestimated their effectiveness in communicating with friends, replicating the pattern found with married couples.

Closeness can create 'illusion of insight'

Communication problems arise when a speaker assumes that a well-known acquaintance has all the information the speaker has, removing the need for a long explanation, Keysar said. When people meet a stranger, they automatically provide more information because they don't have a "closeness bias" in that encounter. In the same way, listeners may wrongly assume that a comment or request from a close acquaintance is based on knowledge that the two have in common a mistake the listener would not make with a stranger.

In order to test that idea, a team at Keysar's lab set up an experiment in which two students would sit across from each other, separated by a box with square compartments that contained objects. Some of the objects were not visible to one of the students. That student, the speaker, would ask the partner to move one of the objects but the speaker did not know that the request could be interpreted in two different ways. For example, if the speaker asked the partner to move a mouse, the partner would have two options: a computer mouse that the speaker could see, or a stuffed mouse that the speaker could not see.

The study found that when partners were asked to move an object with an ambiguous name, they would hesitate longer if the speaker was a friend. But if the speaker was a stranger, the partner would be faster to focus on the object that the speaker could see, and ignore the object that the speaker did not know about. This showed that the participants were more likely to take an egocentric position when working with a friend, neglecting to consider the possibility that the friend didn't share the same information they had.

"Our problem in communicating with friends and spouses is that we have an illusion of insight. Getting close to someone appears to create the illusion of understanding more than actual understanding," said co-author Nicholas Epley, a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

"The understanding, 'What I know is different from what you know' is essential for effective communication to occur," Savitsky said. "It is necessary for giving directions, for teaching a class or just for having an ordinary conversation. But that insight can be elusive when the 'you' in question is a close friend or spouse."

Joining the three in authoring the article were Travis Carter, a College graduate of the University of Chicago and a post-doctoral student at Chicago Booth, and Ashley Swanson, a graduate student at MIT.

Source: University of Chicago

 

American Women Speak Out About Weight Loss and Their Thoughts on Healthy Eating

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On average, more than a third of American women think about their weight at least three times per day, and many think that achieving their weight loss goals or maintaining an 'ideal' weight requires overly strict and drastic lifestyle changes, according to a recent survey conducted by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the marketer of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products, with the support of SHAPE Magazine. Eighty-one percent of women surveyed do not think they are at their ideal weight; still, almost half are optimistic they will achieve their ideal weight in 2011. The survey, which polled women across the country ages 25-54, returned thoughtful feedback on the state of weight loss in America today and the things women are doing to stay healthy.

The survey revealed that when it comes to achieving or maintaining their ideal weight, most women are ill-informed on the most effective and/or healthy ways to do so. For example, 91 percent of women were unaware of the amount of calories one needs to burn in order to lose a pound of fat (3,500 calories). Women surveyed cited stresses, demands on their time, family obligations and financial problems as the reasons their weight loss efforts have been difficult. With so many other factors on their minds, the survey also found that women tend to overlook nutritional value in their food purchases, ranking price, taste and quality higher. Only 17 percent of women ranked nutritional value as the most important factor when purchasing food.

"We found that many women are implementing major lifestyle changes to lose weight. Oftentimes it's small, simple changes that are not only crucial to the weight loss process, but are also healthy and effective in the long run," said SHAPE magazine senior health and nutrition editor Sharon Liao. "We want to spread the message that it doesn't need to be really difficult to make a difference and get on the right track."

The survey went on to reveal some detailed information on the steps women believe are necessary to achieve or maintain a healthy weight. Many women surveyed believe that in order for an average woman to lose 20 pounds in one year, she would need to cut something like sweets or snacks out of her diet entirely (35 percent) or reduce her caloric intake to fewer than 1,000 calories per day (39 percent). In reality, an average woman can successfully lose weight if she follows a calorically-appropriate diet and stays active. The survey revealed that 70 percent of women currently add sugar to foods and beverages, most often adding it to their coffee (48 percent). By making smart substitutions with their food choices and by watching their portion sizes, women can continue to enjoy the foods they love with fewer calories from added sugars.

"If women have unrealistic ideas of what it takes to reduce calories and eat healthfully, they are more likely to become derailed in their weight loss efforts," said Fred Tewell, group product director for SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. "We want to educate women who are trying to manage their weight and let them know that a good place to start is by simply incorporating healthier habits into their daily routines, such as using SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener in place of sugar. If you replace 3 tablespoons of sugar each day with SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, you'll save 100 calories. It's important for women to know that they can carry out their goals in simple, delicious ways that won't disrupt their daily lives."

Source:
McNeil Nutritionals, LLC

 
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