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5 Ways Physical Gestures Influence Your Thinking

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We’re used to thinking about the mind being in control of the body: Think about moving your hand, and your hand moves. But in some situations, the body can have just as much influence on the way you think as the mind has on how you move. Here are five ways physical gestures and movements can influence how you think and feel: 

1. Slouching can make you moody. 

Psychologists from Ohio University found that when people were told to slump forward at their desks during stressful tasks, they reported more negative feelings and felt more insecure about their work-related skills than people who sat up straight. However, the popular idea that “power poses” can make you act more confident is probably a myth. A recent study found that adopting power stances did not affect confident behavior or cause hormonal changes in study subjects.

2. Eliminating frowning can decrease depression. 

Several studies have found that paralyzing a person’s forehead using Botox injections—physically preventing them from frowning—can improve symptoms of depression. When you feel sad, you furrow your brow, but studies have shown that just the act of furrowing your brow can make you feel worse. Not being able to show outward signs of negativity may help minimize the feelings, short-circuiting the negative feedback loop.

3. It's easier to remember actions than words. 

In a 2004 study, psychologists asked children to read sentences about life on a farm. Some kids acted out what they read with toys after reading, while other kids just read the sentences again. Those who had acted out the sentences showed better reading comprehension and remembered more details about the story several days later than those who had been assigned to the rereading group [PDF]. Other research has found that months after a play is over, actors are better at remembering lines they spoke while moving than the ones they recited while standing still.  

4. People tend to like words more if they are easier to type. 

Several recent studies suggest that the increase in computer use is changing our speech, and not just because we’ve started say “OMG!” more. For instance, researchers found that popular baby names tend to be those spelled with letters that are typed with the right hand on the QWERTY keyboard. Since many people are right-handed, these letters may be easier to type. Another study found that people might view words typed mostly with the right hand (like LOL) more positively, though the results were subtle. 

5. Moving can make you more creative. 

In a 2014 Stanford University study, taking a stroll resulted in more creative ideas than sitting in a lab. The results held true even after the walk was over, and for walks in a seemingly uncreative place, like on a treadmill facing a blank wall. That’s probably why people pace when thinking hard.  

Additional sources: How the Body Knows Its Mind: The Surprising Power of the Physical Environment to Influence How You Think and Feel

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How Urban Legends Like 'The Licked Hand' Are Born
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If you compare the scary stories you heard as a kid with those of your friends—even those who grew up across the country from you—you’ll probably hear some familiar tales. Maybe you tried to summon Bloody Mary by chanting her name in front of the mirror three times in a dark bathroom. Maybe you learned never to wonder what’s under a woman’s neck ribbon. Maybe you heard the one about the girl who feels her dog lick her hand in the middle of the night, only to wake up to find him hanging dead from the shower nozzle, the words “humans can lick too” written on the wall in the dog’s blood.

These ubiquitous, spooky folk tales exist everywhere, and a lot of them take surprisingly similar forms. How does a single story like the one often called “Humans Can Lick Too” or "The Licked Hand" make its way into every slumber party in America? Thrillist recently investigated the question with a few experts, finding that most of these stories have very deep roots.

In the case of The Licked Hand, its origins go back more than a century. In the 1990s, Snopes found that a similar motif dates back to an Englishman’s diary entry from 1871. In it, the diary keeper, Dearman Birchall, retold a story he heard at a party of a man whose wife woke him up in the middle of the night, urging him to go investigate what sounded like burglars in their home. He told his wife that it was only the dog, reaching out his hand. He felt the dog lick his hand … but in the morning, all his valuables were gone: He had clearly been robbed.

A similar theme shows up in the short story “The Diary of Mr. Poynter,” published in 1919 by M.R. James. In it, a character dozes off in an armchair, and thinks that he is petting his dog. It turns out, it’s some kind of hairy human figure that he flees from. The story seems to have evolved from there into its presently popular form, picking up steam in the 1960s. As with any folk tale, its exact form changes depending on the teller: sometimes the main character is an old lady, other times it’s a young girl.

You’ll probably hear these stories in the context of happening to a “friend of a friend,” making you more likely to believe the tale. It practically happened to someone you know! Kind of! The setting, too, is probably somewhere nearby. It might be in your neighborhood, or down by the local railroad tracks.

Thrillist spoke to Dr. Joseph Stubbersfield, a researcher in the UK who studies urban legends, who says the kind of stories that spread widely contain both social information and emotional resonance. Meaning they contain a message—you never know who’s lurking in your house—and are evocative.

If something is super scary or gross, you want to share it. Stories tend to warn against something: A study of English-language urban legends circulating online found that most warned listeners about the hazards of life (poisonous plants, dangerous animals, dangerous humans) rather than any kind of opportunities. We like to warn each other of the dangers that could be lurking around every corner, which makes sense considering our proven propensity to focus on and learn from negative information. And yes, that means telling each other to watch out for who’s licking our hands in the middle of the night.

Just something to keep in mind as you eagerly await Jezebel’s annual scary story contest.

[h/t Thrillist]

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Steve Wood/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Are Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll Really Linked? Researchers Investigate
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Steve Wood/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Around the world, sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll are said to go hand-in-hand. But do they? As PsyPost reports, a pair of Pennsylvania psychologists recently dove into the empirical evidence tying the three together, asking college students to talk about their drug use, sex lives, and music preferences and talents to suss out whether people who play and enjoy rock music really do have more active sex lives and drug use.

Published in the journal Human Ethnology Bulletin, the study [PDF] of 467 students relied on self-reporting, which isn't typically the most reliable evidence—people are wont to exaggerate how often they've had sex, for instance—but the survey also asked them about their desires, posing questions like "If you could, how frequently would you have sex?" It also asked about how often the students drank and what drugs they had tried in their lifetimes. They also described their musical experience and what kind of music they listened to.

The results were mixed, but the researchers identified a relationship between liking faster, "harder" music and having more sex and doing more drugs. Acoustic indie rock aficionados weren't getting quite as wild as heavy metal fans. High-tempo-music lovers were more likely to have taken hallucinogenic drugs like LSD, for example, and tended to have had more sexual partners in the previous year than people who favored slower types of music. According to the study, previous research has found that attention-seeking people are more likely to enjoy "hard" music.

The study didn't have a diverse enough group either in age or in ethnicity to really begin to make sweeping generalizations about humans, especially since college students (the participants were between 18 and 25) tend to engage in more risky behaviors in general. But this could lay the groundwork for future research into the topic. Until then, it might be more accurate to change the phrase to "sex, drugs, and heavy metal."

[h/t PsyPost]


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