5 Great Things With Unexpected Downsides

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Every cloud has a silver lining. We hate to rain on your parade, but it seems the opposite is true, too. Here are five allegedly good things that aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

1. Being Forgiving

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Forgiveness is a virtue of the brave, so accepting an apology and moving on must be the best thing to do, right? Science says no — you should take the hard line every single time. A study of 135 newlywed couples found that those who had the most forgiving spouses were twice as likely to repeat their previous bad behavior, sometimes as quickly as the next day. And waffling between forgiveness and anger made the transgressive spouse up to six times more likely to repeat their bad behavior.

2. Being in Love

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It turns out the same hormone that tells you you’re in love also makes you full of negative emotions. In 2009, scientists discovered that oxytocin, long associated with evoking positive feelings like love and altruism, also makes people much more likely to be envious or jealous. While this might seem obvious (the jealous lover is no new concept), it extends to all situations, even those beyond relationships. Smitten people are more likely to get irrationally angry at the guy who got the last blueberry muffin at Starbucks, or to be jealous of someone who earns more money.

Even worse than the fact that being loved up makes you a veritable green-eyed monster, scientists had hoped oxytocin could be used to treat autism, but the emotional side-effects mean it’s probably not a viable treatment.

3. Gettin’ Paid

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Money in and of itself can be a great thing, but having lots of it can change you on a number of levels. According to psychologist Dacher Keltner, being rich means you are less likely to empathize with other people, because you literally can't imagine what their life is like. Probably worst of all: the rich have a harder time reading emotions in other people's faces, especially less well-off people, meaning they can't even see how sad you look while serving their fancy coffee.

4. Holding Down the 9-to-5

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It keeps you in electricity and Hot Pockets, so it’s all right, right? Turns out that just one person being a jerk in one workplace will set off a chain reaction of anger and bad moods that spreads like a virus. Even if you’re in a friendly environment doing work you enjoy, studies show that, whether you notice it or not, hearing a coworker’s complaints can make you ruder to your family when you get home. That attitude then transfers to them, and then it gets passed on to their friends and co-workers, and so on and so on and so on.

5. Self-Improvement

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While motivation to change in a positive way is a great thing, wanting to become a better person actually makes you more likely to lie... especially about whatever you’re trying to improve. For example, let’s say you really want to become a better runner. If someone asks you what your best 5k time is, you are more likely shave a few minutes from your actual best time. And you probably won’t feel bad about it, either, because in your mind what you are saying will be true at some point in the future. This “eventual truth” doesn’t feel icky because you’re pretty sure it won’t always be a lie.

June 13, 2012 - 12:24pm
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