Entries in Emotions (7)


Texting Study Shows Women Wear Their Emoticons on Their Sleeves

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(HOUSTON, Texas) -- The folks over at Rice University, having apparently figured out everything else there is to know about everything, have turned their attention to those sometime grating graphic symbols called emoticons that have become an integral part of text messages.

In their must-read study, “A Longitudinal Study of Emoticon Use in Text Messaging from Smartphones,” Rice researchers have concluded that women are twice as likely than men to use the little facial expressions in texts.

The study was a thorough examination of 124,000 texts sent over six months by men and women. Just to make sure the research wasn’t skewed, the participants received free phones but weren't told what the study was about.

What the researchers learned from the cellphone data culled over half-a-year was that all the participants at some point used emoticons in their text messages but that the expressions popped up in just four percent of all the texts sent.

And while as many as 74 emoticons were used over the course of the experiment, the symbols indicating happy, sad and very happy comprised 70 percent of all the emoticons sent.

Besides women using emoticons by a two-to-one margin over men, they were found to be more emotionally expressive in non-verbal communications. However, men use a greater variety of emoticons than women -- whatever that means.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Happiness Isn't Always What It's Cracked Up to Be

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- “Don’t worry, be happy” may seem like good advice, but studies show that being too happy can actually backfire on you.

Yale University psychology professor June Gruber pulls no punches in revealing the downside of overdoing happiness, warning it can make people more gullible and selfish as well as less creative and unsuccessful.

Not only that but Gruber says, “Research indicates that very high levels of positive feelings predict risk-taking behaviors, excess alcohol and drug consumption, binge eating, and may lead us to neglect threats.”

Studies suggest those who are happier at a younger age get held back professionally because they tend to quit school earlier, leaving them at a disadvantage compared to those who seek more education and find better paying jobs.  What’s more, happy people who have jobs are usually less inclined to switch careers, which may again hinder them from earning more money elsewhere.

Another problem with being too happy is that studies have shown that happiness junkies tend to make more stereotypic judgment calls, for instance, believing that work done by a male is better than the same job performed by a woman even if the results are identical.

Eventually, it became a vicious circle as the more people strive for happiness, the worse they feel in the obsessive goal to satisfy the question, “Am I having fun yet?”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Boredom, Constant Cheer, Cynicism and Other Job Hazards

Christopher Robbins/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Paul Spector was never as bored as the summer he spent after high school working in a contact lens factory. His job was cutting each contact lens out of a sheet of plastic.

Now a professor studying industrial and occupational psychology at the University of South Florida, Spector said boredom is underappreciated as a workplace stressor, along with a host of other on-the-job strains that can drive people crazy. Often these stressors can be just as consuming as being overworked and overwhelmed.

“Being chronically bored means being unhappy and stressed,” said Spector. “If you don’t have enough to do or what you do is monotonous, that can make you miserable, which can be very stressful.”

Being required to slap on a happy face, too, can be a strain for workers, such as those in the customer service industry. Researchers call this work emotional labor, and say that it frequently leads to burnout.

“Not only do you have the pressure of doing your job, but there’s pressure to make every customer feel valued and happy, which can be hard and really draining,” said Ben Dattner, an organizational psychologist and author of the book The Blame Game.

A survey of 200 British customer service employees found that the effort of being constantly cheerful left these workers feeling emotionally exhausted and cynical.

The poor economy may compound workplace stress, as the prospect of a steady paycheck keeps people in jobs that don’t match their skills or interests.

“You have people with fairly high-level skills who can’t find jobs in their profession, so they wind up underemployed and bored,” Spector said.

Occasional boredom is unavoidable, of course, but the danger of chronic boredom lies in the unhealthy habits that workers tend to pick up to keep themselves entertained. Scientists at the University of Central Lancashire in Britain surveyed 100 British office workers and found that a quarter of them suffer from chronic boredom. How did they deal with the stress of monotony? Many reported turning to extra coffee breaks, chocolate binges or regular post-work alcohol to take the edge off.

That doesn’t surprise Martin Binks, chief executive officer of Binks Behavioral Health in Durham, N.C., who said people find all kinds of unhealthy ways to alleviate their boredom at work, like repeatedly hitting the snack and soda machines or taking frequent cigarette breaks.

Rather than downing a 400-calorie latte at the coffee shop, Binks suggests that when boredom strikes, workers can try switching to a different task, taking a quick walk or even making trips to the bathroom to wash your hands or face.

“Repeated bathroom visits are better than repeated snack machine visits,” he said.

Employees who find themselves busy and bored all at once may need a more long-term solution. Dattner said people who are bored with their work should consider talking with their employer about expanding or changing their role on the job or asking for more training.

“It may help to think about a more effective or efficient way to do what you’re doing,” Dattner said. “To some extent, making yourself obsolete by coming up with a process improvement could be risky but, on the other hand, might earn you the gratitude of the organization or superiors.”

Experts say certain methods of stress relief should be avoided at all costs: creating drama with coworkers, taking long lunches or spending too much time on Facebook or YouTube are usually not good ideas.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Dogs Can Mimic Human Gaze, Researchers Find

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Dogs may be as receptive to certain human communication signals as infants are, according to a new study published in the journal Current Biology.

Hungarian researchers found that dogs' eyes follow where a person is looking if the person first communicates with the dog, such as through eye contact.

The researchers showed 29 dogs a series of videos depicting a person turning toward a pot. If the person looked in the direction of the dog and said, "Hi, dog!" in a high-pitched voice before looking at the pot, the dog was more likely to follow the human's gaze and also look at the pot than if the person didn't look at the dog and only said, "Hi, dog," in a lower-pitched voice. The dogs' eyes were followed with an eye tracker.

This phenomenon, known as gaze-following, is well-documented in infants and young children, the authors wrote.

"Our findings reveal that dogs are receptive to human communication in a manner that was previously attributed only to human infants," co-author Jozsef Topal of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences said in a journal press release. "Increasing evidence supports the notion that humans and dogs share some social skills, with dogs' social-cognitive functioning resembling that of a 6-month to 2-year-old child in many respects."

Veterinarians and animal behavior experts not involved with the research said that while it may seem obvious that dogs are able to follow nonverbal cues, this is one of the few studies that offer scientific proof about dogs' ability to communicate.  

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Men and Women Cut from Different Cloths, Study Finds

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- A new study finds evidence to support the theory that men and women are truly from different personality planets.

A new British study of 10,000 people found that the two genders share only 10 percent of personality traits.  The other 90 percent of the equations are poles apart.  Women have higher levels of sensitivity and warmth, while men have higher levels of emotional stability and dominance.

The reason, the study concludes? Different hormones.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Stress of Rude Co-Worker Can Affect Home Life

BananaStock/Thinkstock(WACO, Texas) -- When it comes to dealing with a rude co-worker, recent research suggests the stress can be so intense that it can affect relationships outside of work and even lead a person's partner to take those same feelings into his or her workplace.

"The stress impacts the marital satisfaction of both partners," said Merideth Ferguson, the study's author and an assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship at the Baylor University Hankamer School of Business in Waco, Texas. "The rudeness jumps over to affect their partner's workplace and creates distraction and distress there."

Ferguson said she is unsure exactly how it happens, but theorizes that at least one reason is that the stress affects a person's ability to handle household responsibilities and in turn, that person's partner must take on more of the demands, which could spill over into the partner's work life.

"It's often a combination of problems at work that spill over to the home and problems at home that spill over to work," said Joshua Klapow, a clinical psychologist the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health. "It can be hard to tease them out."

Klapow was not involved in the research.

Other psychologists not involved with the study say dealing with an ill-mannered co-worker is very difficult, but also very necessary to avoid detrimental effects on physical and emotional well-being.

"It can lead to anxiety, depression and other problems," said Nadine Kaslow, professor and vice chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta. "Chronic work stress is not good for one's mental or physical health. It can lead to headaches and stomach aches and other physical ailments."

Being constantly disrespected can also lead to a temporary loss of self-esteem, which can also affect a person's mood, she said.

Ferguson said research looking into the effect of rude co-workers on the family is just beginning. This study only involved 190 subjects and didn't control for certain factors, such as the ones that may affect how stress crosses over from work to family.

"However, these findings emphasize the notion that organizations must realize the far-reaching effects of co-worker incivility and its impact on employees and their families," she said.

The research was published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Vicarious Embarrassment a Pain in the Brain

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Ever wonder why some people can't stand the over-the-top awkwardness of characters on The Office while others love it? It may have to do with the ability to feel empathy, according to new research from the Philipps-University Marburg in Germany.

Researchers analyzed how people experience vicarious embarrassment -- that cringe we feel when the host of a party makes a toast with a piece of spinach in his teeth -- and found that it was closely tied to feelings of empathy and empathy centers in the brain.

A group of 619 German 20-somethings were shown a series of vignettes depicting a stranger getting into embarrassing situations, and then asked to rate how much embarrassment they felt for him. Sometimes the stranger was oblivious to their faux-pas, like the spinach-in-the-teeth example. Sometimes they were painfully aware -- one showed a person bending over and splitting his pants.

Though empathy is usually thought of as pain we experience with someone -- they suffer and we suffer with them -- researchers found that the subjects felt vicarious embarrassment even when the strangers in question were blissfully unaware of their pratfalls.

"We are wired for empathy," says Dr. Marco Iacoboni, professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA. "Human instinct is to be empathic. We can't help it."

For centuries, he says, scientists thought of empathy upside-down: that we were animals fighting for survival and it was only our higher brain functions that allowed us to feel cooperative emotions such as empathy. Neuroscientists are now finding that our brains are wired on a very basic level to feel empathy for others, though obviously the capacity for empathy varies from person to person.

The study was published Wednesday in the journal PLoS One

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio