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Feeling Angry? Take a Nap

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Aggravated? Do what any mother of a tantrum-y toddler would do, and put yourself down for a quick snooze. Taking a nap can help you deal with minor frustrations, a new study suggests. 

University of Michigan psychologists make the case for a workplace nap room in an upcoming issue of the journal Personality and Individual Differences. In the study, a group of research subjects took a midday nap after participating in computer-based tasks specifically designed to frustrate them. 

Here’s how aggravating the activity was, according to the researchers: 

Four geometric designs are presented successively on a computer screen. Participants are directed to recopy the diagram on a piece of paper, without tracing over any line twice and without lifting the pencil from the paper. Half of each set of designs was unsolvable.

Infuriating! 

While the 40 participants initially spent equal time attempting to conquer the unsolvable puzzles the scientists put before them, a one-hour nap made people more likely to continue spending time on the problem, while non-nappers (who watched a nature documentary for an hour instead) were more likely to give up. The nappers also reported that they felt less impulsive after having a snooze. The subjects had kept a consistent sleep schedule for the few days before the study, and the groups were randomized to control for age, habitual feelings of sleepiness, and other factors. 

The nappers’ abilities to press on with a difficult task suggests that they were better equipped deal with frustration after they slept. 

Patience seems to be finite, just like willpower. Just as people are more likely to cheat and make irrational decisions after a long day, when their mental resources are running low, they also may be more willing to throw up their hands and say, "Enough! This is impossible." With a quick nap though, they will keep working, even on an exasperating task. Of course, this might not translate to the outside world. These subjects probably weren't lying awake mulling over their inane geometry task like you might obsess over an insurmountable work assignment. 

[h/t: EurekAlert!]

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Kohske Takahashi, i-Perception (2017)
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Can You Figure Out This Newly Discovered Optical Illusion?
Kohske Takahashi, i-Perception (2017)
Kohske Takahashi, i-Perception (2017)

Ready to have your mind boggled? Take a look at the image above. What shape are the lines? Do they look like curves, or zigzags?

The image, spotted by Digg, is a new type of optical illusion published in the aptly named journal i-Perception. Discovered by Japanese psychologist Kohske Takahashi, it’s called the “curvature blindness illusion,” because—spoiler—the contrast of the lines against the gray background makes our eye see some of the lines as zigzags when, in fact, they’re all smooth curves.

The illusion relies on a few different factors, according to the three experiments Takahashi conducted. For it to work, the lines have to change contrast just at or after the peak of the curve, reversing the contrast against the background. You’ll notice that the zigzags only appear against the gray section of the background, and even against that gray background, not every line looks angled. The lines that look curvy change contrast midway between the peaks and the valleys of the line, whereas the lines that look like they contain sharp angles change contrast right at the peak and valley. The curve has to be relatively gentle, too.

Go ahead, stare at it for a while.

[h/t Digg]

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Vivid Imagery Makes Poetry More Pleasurable, According to Psychologists
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Contrary to what English teachers led us to believe, most readers don’t judge poetry based on factors like alliteration and rhyme. In fact, a new study published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts suggests that vivid imagery (i.e. sense-evoking description) is what makes a poem compelling, according to Smithsonian.

To determine why some poetic works are aesthetically pleasing while others are less so, researchers from New York University and the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics in Frankfurt, Germany, had more than 400 online volunteers read and rate 111 haikus and 16 sonnets. Participants answered questions about each one, including how vivid its imagery was, whether it was relaxing or stimulating, how aesthetically pleasing they found it, and whether its content was positive or negative.

Not surprisingly, taste varied among subjects. But researchers did find, overall, that poems containing colorful imagery were typically perceived as more pleasurable. (For example, one favorite work among subjects described flowers as blooming and spreading like fire.) Emotional valence—a poem's emotional impact—also played a smaller role, with readers ranking positive poems as more appealing than negative ones. Poems that received low rankings were typically negative, and lacked vivid imagery.

Researchers think that vivid poems might also be more interesting ones, which could explain their popularity in this particular study. In the future, they hope to use similar methodology to investigate factors that might influence our enjoyment of music, literature, and movies.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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