Research Says

Research Says: Facebook Improves Memory

Social media may improve cognitive abilities in senior citizens, as demonstrated in an ongoing research study at the University of Arizona. 68-91 year-old adults were asked to set up a Facebook account and update their status daily. Participants in the control group were asked to maintain a private blog with daily entries. The adults who spent two months on Facebook showed a 25% improvement in their working memory and concentration. Control participants showed no improvement.

Several interpretations support these findings. Perhaps people who are more socially engaged in old age tend to do better cognitively. It could also be that the relative complexity of Facebook compared to a blog – keeping track of everyone’s status updates, comments, photos, etc. – gave the participants more of a mental workout.

Given results from this study, we recommend that you accept the Friend requests from your parents. ;)

Research Says: Feng Shui Matters

The ancient Chinese art of “feng shui” (風水) has roots in science. At the very least, researchers have found psychological benefits for placing plants in office spaces, which are often advised by feng shui masters. More specifically, indoor plants have been shown to increase positive mood (Larsen et al., 1998), creativity (Shibata & Suzuki, 2002), and attention span (Raanaas et al., 2011). These findings support several existing theories.

Ulrich’s theory on psychophysiological stress-reduction posits that natural contents such as vegetation can evoke positive emotions, sustain non-vigilant attention, restrict negative thoughts, and reduce physiological arousal (Bringslimark et al., 2009). The attention restoration theory states that natural environments can have a restorative effect on attention and fight mental fatigue (Raanaas et al., 2011). And of course, we all know that plants act as natural humidifiers, which are rather needed during dry winter months.

So, have we convinced you to go buy a plant for your work station? ;)

Bringslimark, T., Hartig, T., & Patil, G.G. (2009). The psychological benefits of indoor plants: A critical review of the experimental literature. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 29, 422-433.

Larsen, L., Adams, J., Deal, B., Kweon, B.S., & Tyler, E. (1998). The effects of plant density on productivity, attitudes, and perceptions. Environment and Behavior, 30, 261-281.

Raanaas, R.K., Evensen, K.H., Rich, D., Sjostrom, G., & Patil, G. (2011). Benefits of indoor plants on attention capacity in an office setting. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 31, 99-105.

Shibata, S. & Suzuki, N. (2002). Effects of the foliage plant on task performance and mood. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 22, 265-272.

Research Says: Love Hurts, Literally

A recent article from the Association for Psychological Science claimed that social pain is very similar to physical pain. Stated differently: when love hurts, it can hurt literally. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that the same brain regions (the anterior cingulate cortex signaling distress; the somatosensory cortex and dorsal posterior insula, which are sensory regions) light up when people experience either physical or emotional pain. Follow-up studies revealed that Tylenol not only treats physical pain but can also alleviate hurt feelings. Likewise, support groups can relieve physical pain.

Does this mean that the next time we go through heartache, we can just pop in a Tylenol?! Please, voice your reactions and comments below.