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Lonely People Have Social Skills, They're Just Too Anxious to Use Them

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Lonely people may just be terrible under pressure. A new study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin finds that lonely people aren’t lacking in social skills. Rather, they may be able to decode social cues just as well as a non-lonely person, but choke under the pressure of performing in social situations, researchers led by Megan Knowles at Pennsylvania’s Franklin and Marshall College found. 

As it turns out, “choking” is a scientifically validated concept. When people pay too much attention to what should be automated processes, like in professional sports, it can interfere with what should be a subconscious performance. Freaking out over a task, like a math test, can also overload working memory, causing people to flub.  

In four different tests, participants who described themselves as lonely performed as well or better than non-lonely participants, as long as the tasks weren’t couched in terms of social suavity. In one, for instance, some participants were told that a particular lab task would measure their performance in social situations, while another group was told that it was merely a measure of problem-solving. Lonely people in the former condition tended to perform worse than non-lonely people, while in the second condition, there was no difference. In other words, when they felt their social skills were being put to the test, lonelier people choked. However, in a subsequent study when participants were primed to attribute their feelings of anxiety to a caffeine buzz (from a fake energy drink that in reality contained no sugar or caffeine), lonely individuals performed better. 

Apparently, allowing the lonely to dismiss their anxieties as stemming from another task or being side effects of caffeine enabled them to avoid choking under pressure,” the researchers write. “Altogether, these findings suggest that the pressure of social challenges causes anxiety that impairs the performance of lonely people.”  

This is in line with previous research suggesting that reframing the way people think about anxiety can help with all kinds of performance anxiety. Leaning into those butterfly feelings—by concentrating on feeling excitement before a big speech for example—can improve performance more than trying to fight the anxiety and calm down. Now, just figure out a way to self-administer placebo shots of caffeine, and you’ll be the life of the party. 

[h/t: The Science of Us]

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The Simple Optical Illusion That Makes an Image Look Like It's Drawing Itself
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Artist James Nolan Gandy invents robot arms that sketch intricate mathematical shapes with pen and paper. When viewed in real time, the effect is impressive. But it becomes even more so when the videos are sped up in a timelapse. If you look closely in the video below, the illustration appears to materialize faster than the robot can put the design to paper. Gizmodo recently explained how the illusion works to make it look like parts of the sketch are forming before the machine has time to draw them.

The optical illusion isn’t an example of tricky image editing: It’s the result of something called the wagon wheel effect. You can observe this in a car wheel accelerating down the highway or in propeller blades lifting up a helicopter. If an object makes enough rotations per second, it can appear to slow down, move backwards, or even stand still.

This is especially apparent on film. Every “moving image” we see on a screen is an illusion caused by the brain filling in the gaps between a sequence of still images. In the case of the timelapse video below, the camera captured the right amount of images, in the right order, to depict the pen as moving more slowly than it did in real life. But unlike the pen, the drawing formed throughout the video isn't subject to the wagon-wheel effect, so it still appears to move at full speed. This difference makes it look like the sketch is drawing itself, no pen required.

Gandy frequently shares behind-the-scenes videos of his mechanical art on his Instagram page. You can check out some of his non-timelapse clips like the one below to better understand how his machines work, then visit his website to browse and purchase the art made by his 'bots.

And if you think his stuff is impressive, make sure to explore some of the incredible art robots have made in the past.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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Narcissists Are More Likely to Be Compulsive Facebook Users
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Updating your Facebook status throughout the day is probably a sign you need a different hobby, but according to a new study, the habit can also indicate something else. As PsyPost reports, people with Facebook addiction are also likely to be narcissists.

For their recent study published in the journal PLOS One, scientists from Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany followed the Facebook activity of 179 German students over the course of a year. They were looking for cases of so-called Facebook Addiction Disorder (FAD) based on the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale, a system developed by University of Bergen researchers that measures factors like mood modification, withdrawal, and relapse in relation to Facebook use.

They wanted to find out whether FAD was linked to other mental health problems. In addition to gauging Facebook compulsion, they also surveyed subjects on their depression and anxiety levels, social support systems, physical health, narcissism, and general satisfaction with life. The results showed a strong correlation between FAD and narcissism. Rather than Facebook making its users more narcissistic, the researchers state that people with narcissistic personalities are at a greater risk of developing the social media addiction.

"Facebook use holds a particular meaning for narcissistic people," they write in the paper. "On Facebook, they can quickly initiate many superficial relationships with new Facebook-friends and get a large audience for their well-planned self-presentation. The more Facebook-friends they have, the higher is the possibility that they attain the popularity and admiration they are seeking; whereas in the offline world they might not be as popular since their interaction partners can quickly perceive their low agreeableness and exaggerated sense of self-importance."

The researchers also found a connection between Facebook addiction and higher levels of stress, depression, and anxiety.

Studies investigating Facebook Addiction Disorder have been conducted in the past, but there’s still not enough research to classify it as an official behavioral addiction. The researchers hope their work will lead to similar studies pinning down a link between FAD and mental health consequences.

[h/t PsyPost]

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