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Why Making Decisions Stresses Some People Out

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Canadian researchers have identified a common, avoidable stressor in some people’s decision-making process: Fear of a Better Option (FOBO). The team published their research online this month in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Psychologists Jeffrey Hughes and Abigail A. Scholer of the University of Waterloo were curious about the type of person experts call a “maximizer”: that is, somebody who researches and considers every possible option before making a decision. “The general mindset of this type of person is something like, ‘I don't want to do anything until I've figured out the right thing to do,’” Hughes told Real Simple. Hughes and Scholer conducted two different studies in the hopes of understanding the maximizer mindset.

For the "promotion-focused" maximizer, every choice hinges on whether or not it will help the individual gain social or financial status. These folks are generally able to make a choice and move on. "Assessment-focused" maximizers, on the other hand, have a difficult time letting go of any option, and may find themselves obsessing over choices they had initially ruled out.

They found that the strategy has clear pros and cons. These kinds of maximizers may make more thoroughly considered decisions than other people, Hughes said, but “it can also lead people to get locked into a state where they keep evaluating and re-evaluating without making any decision.”

Rather than choosing among already well-researched options, the assessment-focused maximizers will just keep adding and researching new ones, prolonging the decision-making process even further. They may also rule out some options, then change their minds, thereby adding doubt, frustration, and regret to the equation. That kind of decision-related paralysis can take a real toll on an individual's well-being. (Notes Hughes, "If you tend to feel frustrated or regretful about decisions on a regular basis, that can lead to some pretty negative outcomes, like lower satisfaction with life.")

Although Hughes and Scholer have yet to test out possible solutions in a laboratory setting, Hughes believes the best thing maximizers can do is to recognize that overthinking is often the enemy of a satisfactory conclusion, and remind themselves to truly let go of options they’ve already eliminated. “Try to trust your gut when you look at an option and feel like it’s not a good one,” he suggests.

Boundaries can also help us from falling down a rabbit hole of online reviews and pro and con lists. It’s all about recognizing the value of your time and energy.

“Tell yourself, ‘I am going to spend 30 minutes researching plane tickets, and that’s it—then I’m buying the best one and moving on,’” Hughes says. “Your time is also a cost, so why not spend that time on decisions that are most important to you?”

[h/t Real Simple]

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Health
Scientist Asks: Why Do We Weep?
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Sometimes we see the tears coming, and sometimes they catch us off guard; we find ourselves weeping without knowing why. It's a personal problem, but it's a scientific one, too: Why do people weep? What purpose does it serve? One expert attempts to answer these questions in a new article in the journal New Ideas in Psychology.

Article author Carlo V. Bellieni is a pediatrician and a bioethicist at Siena University Hospital in Italy. His previous studies have focused on children's emotional well-being and babies' crying and pain. For his latest paper, he examined data and observations on weeping from more than 70 studies and books from researchers stretching back all the way to Charles Darwin.

His conclusion? Weeping is "a complex phenomenon."

For starters, Bellieni writes, weeping is similar to crying, but it's not the same thing. Crying is typically a reaction to pain or anger. It's audible and physical, increasing heart rate, affecting breathing, and contorting the face and body. A crying person's voice changes, and their body makes more stress hormones like adrenaline. And while they don't shed tears, other animals cry, too.

Weeping, on the other hand, appears to be uniquely human. It's what happens when the cup of our emotions runneth over. We cry when we drop a cinderblock on our foot. We weep at funerals, and at weddings.

As Bellieni discovered, there are many theories on how we cry and weep, and where the tears come from. Some researchers have argued that we make tears to return ourselves to the soothing, fluid environment of the womb. Others theorize that our bodies start extruding tears (and snot) to keep our nose and throat from drying out as our breathing intensifies. Darwin's hypothesis was that the tears are a byproduct of scrunching up our faces, including the tear-production glands.

None of these theories seem especially plausible, Bellieni writes. So for now, the answer to the physical question is, "We don't really know."

The emotional and social sides of the weeping equation are slightly more straightforward.

Weeping is a form of releasing intense emotion and physical tension. When we weep, we tell our body that it's okay to relax. This helps us reset our system, so to speak, and move on.

And seeing someone weep makes us want to help them, Bellieni says. Weeping makes other people want to help us. Visible sorrow is an opportunity to strengthen social ties. And among social animals like us, strong bonds mean a better chance of survival.

It's wrong to think of weeping as wimpy or weak, Bellieni says. In fact, it's "a strong behavior with positive effects on health and social interaction."

"In the light of these data," he concludes, "weeping appears to be a primal and important human behavior that deserves more attention."

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science
If You’ve Ever Seen a Ghost, Science May Explain Why
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Despite all the reports of ghost sightings (28 percent of Americans report having ghostly encounters), there’s zero evidence to support the presence of supernatural beings among us. Science may not prove the existence of ghosts, but it can help explain why people think they see ghosts in the first place.

In this video from Vox, paranormal investigator Joe Nickell identifies some of the phenomena believers may mistake for paranormal activity. One possible explanation is infrasound, or the sound waves that fall beneath levels of human perception. Though we can’t hear these noises firsthand, our bodies sense them in other ways. This can cause chills, feelings of unease and depression, and even hallucinations.

Other contributors may include sleep paralysis (when you wake up while your body is immobile and experience waking nightmares) and grief. There are also a few less common possibilities that aren’t covered in the video below: Mold poisoning, for instance, can lead to irrational fear and dementia. Suddenly, a visit from a poltergeist doesn’t sound so scary.

[h/t Vox]

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