gmusic@nurturingnatures.co.uk

020 7193 8216

narcissism and superficality

Interesting but worrying new research has just been published by Jean Twenge who has been researching about the changes in the American character for several decades now. The trends that are being seen are an increase in narcissistic attitudes up 30% it seems in those few decades. At the same time more ‘prosocial’ (rather than antisocial) traits, like cooperativeness and understanding other people,  seem to be on the decrease  [1], [2].

In addition we are seeing a much bigger sense of entitlement, more overconfidence and belief in people’s own abilities, what popular psychology describes as self-esteem. While low self-esteem is obviously a problem, what in fact we are seeing is huge levels of over-confidence and a decrease in old fashioned values such as humility and modesty. Interestingly this increase in self-belief does not correlate with actual better performances, so it is delusional in some ways. Better performance in fact correlates with traits like being able to defer gratification and regulate ones emotions, as do all manner of things like holding down a good job or being in a relationship that lasts [3].

Continue reading
  2310 Hits
  0 Comments
2310 Hits
0 Comments

Power, confidence and politics

Power corrupts, as the old adage goes. An interesting set of new experiments sheds some light on this.  Deb Gruenfeld had noted in personal situations just how unthinking some powerful people could be, such as the businessman sitting next to her on the plane who turned the fan away from him and towards her for the flight so she became increasingly cold. With this to spur her on she, with colleagues undertook a range of experiments to explore such  issues[1] . For example people were asked to write an essay in which either they had lots of power or very little power. They were then asked to go into another room for a further test and the instructions were on the desk. In fact also on the desks was a powerful and annoying fan.  Interestingly 69% of those who had written about having power moved the fan, but only 42% of those who wrote about being in a low power situation. Other subjects in a 2nd experiment were again asked to write an essay in which they had high or low power. They were then asked to do a few tasks, the most interesting of which was to draw a capital E on their forehead as quickly as they could. What was fascinating was that those in the high power position were nearly three times more likely to write the E in a “self-oriented” direction, compared to those in the lower power position who were more likely to write an E facing outwards so that others could read it. These are the kind of findings we have come to expect. Other studies have shown that if people randomly sit on a high or low desk, those on the higher ones tend to be more assertive. More relevantly Paul Piff had found that those with higher social class and more money tended to be not only more assertive but also less prosocial, for example less likely to give way to others in a car and more likely to cheat [2].

Continue reading
  2088 Hits
  0 Comments
2088 Hits
0 Comments

The trouble with testosterone: confidence, aggression and dominance

Watching the demise of my football team’s champions league hopes, and being all too aware of not only stress levels but also how my optimism and confidence gave way to despondency as hopes began to fade, I coped by an intellectual defence. I begun to think again about sport and hormones and managed my disappointment by  trying to make sense of the contradictory role that testosterone plays,  in male lives particularly but also in females. A recent study   by  Leander van der Meij of the VU University, Amsterdam showed that testosterone levels increase when watching football matches, and the researchers suggest that this is linked to the response to threat and to dominance levels [1]. Indeed another study just published showed that males when given artificial does of testosterone stare for longer at faces which represent threat, even when these faces are out of awareness[2]. We have known for a while that sports players have higher levels when playing at home and when playing fierce rivals, and even found that male  Obama supporters had higher levels than McCain supporters on the night when the last presidential election results were announced. Such research gets right to the heart of much nature-nurture debate. While we are often saddled with our testosterone levels from pre-birth, and indeed much research suggests that prenatal testosterone levels influences a range of behaviours from sexual choice to the toys we play with, levels rise and fall in response to specific circumstances and in all likelihood particular cultural influences. Southern American men, for example, tend to respond more reactively to potential threat than their northern counterparts.

Continue reading
  3931 Hits
  0 Comments
3931 Hits
0 Comments