Think you know how you and other people work?
Think again as we delve into some of the most interesting and eye-opening psychological facts that might just shock and surprise you.
1. Most Laughter Comes From The Person Speaking
We often assume that laughter occurs when we hear something funny, but research has shown that it is the people doing the speaking who laugh the most – 46% more than their audience – source.
Why it matters: never again should you assume that someone who laughs at his/her own jokes isn’t funny. And if you want to enjoy some giggles yourself, it’s best if you’re an active part of the conversation.
2. Our Memories Change Each Time They Are Recalled
What you think of as a memory of that day at the beach is merely a reconstructed mini movie that changes (sometimes a lot, but generally quite subtly) every time it is recalled – source.
Why it matters: you can never fully trust your memory when it comes to precise details. Try and remember this, if nothing else, when arguing with someone over what went down on a particular occasion.
3. We Overestimate The Emotional Impact Of Future Events
We are pretty bad at guessing how good or bad a potential future event will make us feel. This is known as impact bias and it is why we all dream of winning the lottery and fear the loss of a job so much – source.
Why it matters: when we believe something is likely to be far better or far worse than it actually will be, it can contribute to us making poor choices.
4. Some People Are Inherently Lazy, But They Are Typically Happier
There is a school of thought that suggests that people who settle for an adequate rather than optimal outcome (known as satisficers) end up more content with their choices than those who seek to maximize every possible aspect of their lives (known as maximizers) – source.
Why it matters: perhaps we should stop looking at people who we think are ‘settling’ as lazy and actually consider how this might sometimes be the best approach for happiness.
5. We Are Virtually Addicted To Seeking Information
The neurotransmitter dopamine makes us feel good and it just so happens to be driving us to seek ever greater amounts of information, even if there’s no practical purpose to it – source.
Why it matters: we spend more time Googling, refreshing social media, and glued to news networks than ever before, but it is not necessary or healthy.
6. The Unconscious Mind Figures Things Out Long Before The Conscious
Why it matters: more often than not, what we call our intuition does a pretty good job of making the right decisions and it does so way before our conscious minds reach a conclusion.
7. Food, Sex And Danger Come First In Our Brains
Thanks to millions of years of evolutionary conditioning, our brains seem to be hardwired to assess things as a meal, a mate, or a threat. That’s why we find images of food, sexual suggestion, and danger so compelling and so hard to ignore – source.
Why it matters: in the modern world, it is the marketers who have taken full advantage of this with ads packed full of alluring imagery and elements of danger.
8. We Often See What We Expect To See
There is no way that our conscious minds can ever absorb every bit of information around us and this leads to inattentional blindness, where we overlook seemingly obvious things because we are either distracted by something else, or we simply don’t expect to see the anomaly – source.
Why it matters: we can’t expect to be aware of everything around us, and we shouldn’t be surprised when others don’t spot something that is staring us right in the face.
9. We Can Only Remember 3 Or 4 New Things At A Time
Our short term memories can only really store 3 or 4 things at a time and we need to keep refreshing facts until they can form more long term pathways in our brains – source.
Why it matters: this is why you might struggle to remember people’s names just seconds after you were first introduced.
10. Children Are Better At Delaying Gratification In A Reliable Environment
When researchers revisited the famous Marshmallow Experiment and added a twist to it, they found that kids who were exposed to a reliable environment were better at delaying gratification than those exposed to an unreliable environment – source.
Why it matters: when parents tell a child that they are going to do something, they had better follow through or the child might stop believing them and be less able to delay gratification.
11. Synchronized Activities Foster Cooperation In Groups
When groups of people take part in a single activity, they are more likely to cooperate in subsequent tasks, even if self-sacrifice is required for the good of the whole – source.
Why it matters: getting groups of people to follow a particular ritual or behavior builds bonds that can lead them to be more wholehearted in future cooperation (for better or for worse).
12. We Struggle With More Than 150 Social Connections
It is suggested that humans find it difficult to have any meaningful connection with more than 150 people at a time, a figure known as Dunbar’s Number – source.
Why it matters: you may have hundreds, or even thousands of “friends” on Facebook, but when it comes to real life, if you want to make new genuine connections, you might find you have to drop a few existing ones to make space.
13. People Most Easily Process Information Presented In Story Form
We are better at understanding concepts and remembering facts when we are taught through story telling rather than abstract concepts, facts, and figures – source.
Why it matters: whether you’re trying to teach children an important lesson or sell a product to a consumer, try to incorporate a story into the process.
14. Even The Thought Of Progress Motivates Us
Often, all it takes to motivate us is the illusion that we are making progress towards our goals – source.
Why it matters: if we can trick our minds into thinking we’re making progress, we can actually motivate ourselves into working harder towards achieving our dreams and goals.
15. Our Minds Spend 30% Of The Time Wandering
Typically speaking, our minds are not focused on the task at hand a staggering 30% of the time. Instead, they are found wandering in memories and daydreams – source.
Why it matters: we shouldn’t be surprised or angry when our minds aren’t paying attention – you’ll just have to read the same sentence 5 times before taking it in!