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What Your Phone Use Says About Your Depression

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Spending too much time fiddling with your smartphone may be an indicator of depression, according to a new study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (a publication whose articles are, contrary to expectations, not all about the hazards of WebMD). Northwestern University and Michigan State University researchers found they could identify people with depression just by tracking their mobile phone usage, with an 87 percent accuracy rate. 

A group of 40 people recruited from Craigslist used an app that monitored their location and phone usage (based on how much time the phone’s screen was on) for two weeks. They also completed a questionnaire that evaluated them for symptoms of depression. At the end of the two-week period, the researchers found that phone usage and GPS data were better indicators of a subject’s depression than a daily survey that asked the participants to rate their sadness levels. 

Depressed subjects spent an average of 68 minutes per day on their phones, while non-depressed individuals spent 17 minutes per day using their phones on average. Depressed people (half the sample) also spent time in fewer locations, staying at home more.

There are many caveats that come along with these results. The study didn’t take into account whether the participants used their phones for work, and didn’t examine anyone under the age of 19 (both groups of heavy phone users). Nor did it monitor whether people were using the phones to talk to their friends and family or just playing Candy Crush. Plus, the sample was quite small. Due to insufficient data (like participants who forgot to charge their phones), only 20 women and eight men were included in the final sample. 

So just being on your phone a lot might not automatically mean you’re depressed. But it might be a warning sign, one that’s easier for psychologists to implement since an app is non-invasive and, for most people, always within reach.  

"People are likely, when on their phones, to avoid thinking about things that are troubling, painful feelings or difficult relationships," study co-author David Mohr of Northwestern explains in a press release. "It's an avoidance behavior we see in depression."

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What Pop Culture Gets Wrong About Dissociative Identity Disorder
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From the characters in Fight Club to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, popular culture is filled with "split" personalities. These dramatic figures might be entertaining, but they're rarely (if ever) scientifically accurate, SciShow Psych's Hank Green explains in the channel's latest video. Most representations contribute to a collective misunderstanding of dissociative identity disorder, or DID, which was once known as multiple personality disorder.

Experts often disagree about DID's diagnostic criteria, what causes it, and in some cases, whether it exists at all. Many, however, agree that people with DID don't have multiple figures living inside their heads, all clamoring to take over their body at a moment's notice. Those with DID do have fragmented personalities, which can cause lapses of memory, psychological distress, and impaired daily function, among other side effects.

Learn more about DID (and what the media gets wrong about mental illness) by watching the video below.

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Humblebraggarts Are the Worst (Science Says So)
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Humblebraggarts. We all know (at least) one: that person who takes a woe-is-me tack to ostensibly "complain" about something when the real intent is to boast.

"It's noon, I haven't had a cup of coffee, and the espresso machine at this Mercedes dealer is broken. FML!"

"Have been sitting on the runway for 30 minutes. Next time I'm flying commercial instead of private."

In many ways, it's another version of #FirstWorldProblems, and social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have only made the practice more pervasive. As TIME reports, a new study has concluded that people see right through this fake humility—and like people less for doing it.

Researchers at Harvard and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill conducted a series of nine experiments, including a week-long diary study and a field experiment, to both identify the ubiquity of the behavior and then determine its effectiveness as a form of self-presentation. Their findings, which were published in the January Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, determined that if you're going to brag, people would rather you just be transparent about it.

"It's such a common phenomenon," Ovul Sezer, study co-author and an assistant professor of organizational behavior at UNC's Kenan-Flagler Business School, told TIME. "All of us know some people in our lives, whether in social media or in the workplace, who do this annoying thing. You think, as the humblebragger, that it's the best of both worlds, but what we show is that sincerity is actually the key ingredient."

Of the 646 participants, 70 percent of them could recall a recent humblebrag they'd heard—the majority of which (about 60 percent) were complaint-based. But the study showed, overwhelmingly, that any statements that could be perceived as humblebragging (whether complaint- or humility-based) "are less effective than straightforward bragging, as they reduce liking, perceived competence, compliance with requests, and financial generosity," according to the study's authors.

"Despite the belief that combining bragging with complaining or humility confers the benefits of each strategy," the study concluded, "we find that humblebragging confers the benefits of neither, instead backfiring because it is seen as insincere.”

In other words: they're not fooling anyone.

"If you want to announce something, go with the brag and at least own your self-promotion and reap the rewards of being sincere, rather than losing in all dimensions," Sezer said—though she suggested that an even more effective tactic is to find someone else to boast on your behalf. "If someone brags for you, that's the best thing that can happen to you, because then you don't seem like you're bragging," she told TIME.

However, Sezer's final piece of advice was not to be too hasty in your dismissal of humblebraggarts as a whole. "We all do it, to some extent," she said. "I hope I don't sound like I'm humblebragging when I talk about this research."

[h/t: TIME]

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