Lifestyle

Narcissistic eyebrows?

December 14, 2018

A 2018 study by researchers Miranda Giacomin and Nicholas Rule of the Psychology Department at the University of Toronto is “raising eyebrows” and prompting us to take another look at facial hair.

The researchers have determined that people can identify grandiose (or overt) narcissists by their distinctive eyebrows.

What exactly is grandiose narcissism? It is a flamboyant, assertive, and interpersonally dominant form of the well-known personality disorder. People with this type of narcissism have an inflated sense of self, are overconfident in making decisions, and don’t seem to learn from their mistakes, according to Psychology Today.

Given that grandiose narcissism is associated with aggressiveness and a tendency to exploit others, it is important to be able to identify this personality trait in others early on. But how?

Previous research has shown that narcissism can manifest itself in people’s appearance. For example, narcissists are more likely to look attractive; to groom themselves carefully; to wear clothes that are expensive, stylish, and flashy; and to have an organized and neat appearance, the report in Psychology Today explains.

Specifically,men are less likely to wear glasses. Women are apt to wear makeup, show cleavage, and pluck their eyebrows.

Previous research has concluded that people can detect grandiose narcissism even by looking at emotionally neutral faces. The present investigation—the results of which have been published in the May 2018 edition of Journal of Personality—attempted to determine what specific features of the target faces enabled people to do so.

Giacomin and Rule first examined participants’ perceptions of target faces as a whole. But participants were able to detect narcissism even in upside-down faces. The researchers then determined that the cues to identifying narcissists resided in the eye region—specifically, the eyebrows.

Using image manipulation, they confirmed their results, observing that a non-narcissist donning a narcissistic person’s brows was judged as more narcissistic, and that a narcissistic person viewed with a non-narcissist’s brows was judged as less narcissistic.

They further discovered that people considered femininity, grooming, and distinctiveness in judging the presence of narcissism in target faces. But only distinctiveness was related to accurate judgments.

Eyebrows help us express many emotions and communicate social messages—even unintentional ones. As Giacomin and Rule observe, brows “provide high-contrast lines that can reveal involuntary expressions or gestures from far away.” Among the factors that make eyebrows distinctive are their thickness and density, the researchers said.

In addition, brows can help us recognize faces, according to the Psychology Today report. For example, in one study, researchers found that the absence of eyebrows in familiar faces, such as celebrity faces, negatively impacted recognition.

Eyebrows may be particularly important to people high on the personality trait of grandiose narcissism. Why? Because they have a strong desire for admiration and recognition and, as a result, might “seek to maintain distinct eyebrows to facilitate others’ ability to notice, recognize, and remember them; thereby increasing their likability and reinforcing their overly positive self-views.”1

Finally, the eyebrows are often an unrecognized factor in mate selection. Giacomin and Rule posit that narcissists are very competitive and often successful in mate selection (mainly when it comes to acquiring short-term sexual partners)—and that their eyebrows could “signal this prowess to others.”

Research contact: miranda.giacomin@utoronto.ca

Stressed out? If yoga doesn’t work, try cuddling a cow

December 13, 2018

Americans who are “having a cow” about politics, money, family—whatever—can now hug the actual animal for comfort.

It’s true: Stressed out folks literally are embracing cows for the endorphins that are produced during a feel-good session. For $300, you get a “threesome”—but not in the sexual sense. Rather, the cost of entry enables two humans to caress, brush, and play with one convivial cow for 90 minutes. .

Sessions tend to be monitored and facilitated by a licensed counselor—and the health treatment is, in fact, rooted in science, according to a recent report by Metro US. Indeed, health experts claim that  cow cuddling provides might make it a good alternative for people who just can’t get into meditation.

One of the many benefits to meditation is the ability to slow down your heart rate, which can work wonders for alleviating or even banishing anxiety. Cow cuddling can do the same thing, according to Mountain Horse Farm, a wellness retreat in Naples, New York, that offers this experience.

Cows have a body temperature that is slightly higher than humans and their heart rate is lower than ours,” the retreat explains on its website. “Cuddling up with a cow, feeling that lower heart rate and higher body temperature, is very relaxing.”

Think of it as therapy that doesn’t require you to say a word. “They will pick up on what’s going on inside and sense if you are happy, sad, feel lost, anxious, or are excited and they will respond to that without judgment, ego. or agenda,” the Mountain Horse Farm website explains. They’re sensitive, intuitive creatures, they explain, which makes them perfect for sensing your emotions and responding to your subtle body language.

Right now, the farm is home to two cows, Bonnie and Bella. Bonnie is just 11 months old and is still  very playful. She loves to be petted and brushed. Bella is a sweet two-year-old cow that also loves to be cuddled and brushed—although her biggest joy is eating. Both cows are being raised as pets and will enjoy a long and happy life on the farm.

Research contact: info@mountainhorsefarm

‘Getting jaded’ could be good for you: The new face roller craze

December 12, 2018

Instagram seems to be “on a roll” when it comes to skin care: Forget the high-tech masks, the “friendly bacteria,” and the dry-brush exfoliation. The latest (ahem) “wrinkle” in style is jade rollers—not for your body, but for your face.

According to a December 10 report by Prevention magazine, “Jade rollers are not a skin care necessity, like face wash or moisturizer. However, if you enjoy pampering yourself and want to give your complexion a little TLC, jade rollers can be a helpful addition to your daily routine, especially if you deal with puffy skin.” Others praise the rollers for firming the skin, increasing circulation, and decreasing inflammation.

For the uninitiated, a jade roller is a small beauty tool that looks like a miniature paint roller—except it’s made of stone and owning one is viewed as chic and upscale In the same way that your muscles feel more relaxed after a nice massage, the skin on your face can experience a release of tension when you use a jade roller properly, according to the fanbase on Instagram.

Prevention informs us: “Take one look through the 30,000 posts tagged #jaderoller on Instagram and you’ll find countless women massaging their face with the tool, often after applying a sheet mask or serum.

The use of the gemstone jade plays a vital role here, Prevention notes—thanks to its ability to maintain a cool temperature, despite being exposed to body heat. In fact, one of the ways to tell if it’s really jade in the first place is to place the stone in the palm of your hand. If it warms up, then it’s not jade.

How exactly does it improve your facial skin? “We do know that fluid tends to accumulate in the soft tissue of the face and around the eyes, which can worsen with allergies, rosacea, high blood pressure, and hormonal changes, and it can start to change the texture of the skin on the face if left there for prolonged periods of time,” Dr. Erum Ilyas, a dermatologist at Montgomery Dermatology in Pennyslvania, told Prevention in a recent interview. “Aside from medications, the use of a jade roller to gently work this excess fluid back into the lymphatic system can help control the effects of this swelling.”

If your goal is to reduce puffiness under the eyes and mitigate dark circles, it’s best to keep your roller in the refrigerator prior to use, Dr. Ilyas advises.

“A desired eye and face serum must be applied to clean skin prior to rolling as well, ideally one containing hyaluronic acid, which holds up to 1,000 times its weight in water,” Bobbi Del Balzo, lead medical aesthetician at the Deep Blue Med Spa in New York, told the magazine. Another handy hint: You can apply a hydrating sheet and use the jade roller over it.

For lymphatic drainage, it’s all in the technique, says Dr. Ilyas, and should take a few minutes at most:

  • Start with the bottom of the face—specifically the center of the chin—and work your way up, rolling outward across the jaw and up toward the ear. Follow this same pattern all the way out towards the cheek.
  • Next, start adjacent to the nose and roll outward over your cheek towards your ears.
  • Using the smaller stone end of your jade roller, work from the inner lower eyelid over the gentle skin under the eye and outward to the temple.
  • Place the roller between your eyebrows and roll out over each eyebrow, again slightly above this area, then straight up towards the hairline.

If you are intrigued, the cost is not too high. Many face rollers are under $20, and most are under $100.

Just how trendy are these face rollers? Even Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop has one for sale—a doo-hickey that is made of rose quartz and, the website claims, will “wake up your entire face” for just $45.

Research contact: @jennsinrich

Mum’s the word: What mothers-in-law say about their daughters-in-law

December 11, 2018

It’s a fact of life that you don’t just marry a man or a woman; you marry their family–and their relationship with each member of that family—for better or for worse..

If a son is close to his mother, for example, many women would take that as a good sign–believing that, if he respects and loves the alpha female in his life, he also will be a good husband and provider.

Indeed, on a personal level, a woman might dream that she will be perceived by her partner’s mom as “the daughter she never had.” Meanwhile, his mom might have a fantasy of her own—assuming that, since her future daughter-in-law is ”crazy about her son,” this younger woman will appreciate every piece of advice about taking care of him and ensuring his happiness. After all, who knows him better than mom?

Wrong on both sides! In fact, fully 60% of women use words like “strained,” “Infuriating,” and “simply awful” to describe their mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship, according to psychologist Terri Apter of the UK’s Cambridge University who attributes such rifts to “the clash of the fantasy lives,” in a 2009 Newsweek interview.

It’s the disappointment felt by both women that “gives these relationships their distinctive negative charge,” Apter says. Add to that a mother’s conflicted feelings of pride and loss as a son marries; a wife’s insecurity that she’s adequately balancing work and home responsibilities, and the tendency of most women to be more sensitive to slights and criticisms than men, and you have the formula for years of trouble.

In some respects, Apter says, the ensuing jockeying for position has a lot of similarities to the games “mean girls” play in middle-school hallways. “Each is the primary woman in her primary family. As each tries to establish or protect her status, each feels threatened by the other.”

However, for a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, the benefits of working toward and maintaining a close relationship cannot be overstated, as Geoffrey Greif and Michael Woolley—both academicians at the School of Social Work at the University of Maryland in Baltimore—found in a study published in November by the journal Social Work.

The study, also covered in the December 7 edition of Psychology Today surveyed 267 mothers-in-law  on the factors that they felt were key in establishing closeness with their daughters-in-law.

From a 114 item survey, the researchers used the statement, “My daughter-in-law and I have a close relationship” as a dependent variable. Among the factors they found that encouraged a close relationship were the following:

  • The mother-in-law perceives the daughter-in-law as being helpful;
  • The mother-in-law perceives her son is happy with the relationship she has with the daughter-in-law;
  • The mother-in-law perceives she and the daughter-in-law share similar interests;
  • The mother-in-law feels close with her son;
  • The mother-in-law does not feel left out by her daughter-in-law and son; and
  • The mother-in-law spends time with her daughter-in-law.

For those mothers-in-law struggling with their relationship with their daughter-in-law, a few takeaways emerged from the findings, the authors told Psychology Today—among them:

  • First, a mother-in-law should engage her daughter-in-law in ways and situations in which she can be helpful. Are there opportunities that are not being used where some level of mutuality can be built?
  • Second, similar to the first, a mother-in-law should try to find shared interests with a daughter-in-law because such joint activities can help to build a relationship
  • Third, look at the relationship the son/spouse plays in the relationship with the daughter-in-law. It goes without saying that most mothers want to be close with their son; when they are close, they are more likely to be close with their daughter-in-law also. To help build closeness with the son, the mother-in-law should recognize that building a relationship with her daughter-in-law may facilitate closeness with the son who is an extremely important person in this relationship.
  • Fourth, the mother-in-law should work to explore her own feelings of inclusion or exclusion. Feeling left out is not pleasant. If there are ways to try to understand what is leading to these feelings (remembering the demands that couples, especially those raising children, are experiencing), a path may be found to experiencing them less often

Finally, author Geoffrey Greif says, don’t get discouraged: Building a close relationship may require time, patience, and effort:

Research contact: ggreif@ssw.umarylandedu

In your dreams: More than 25% of college students are sleep-texting

December 10, 2018

We all have heard of sleepwalking and sleep-talking, and even sleep-eating—but now there’s a new syndrome : sleep-texting. And why should we be surprised, with all of the time we spend on our smartphones and social media?

A research study conducted among 372 college students by Villanova University’s M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing has found that a growing number of adolescents and college students are keeping connected to friends by texting into the wee hours of night, and often don’t remember doing so. That’s because they are asleep.

Elizabeth B. Dowdell—-a professor of Nursing and lead author of the study, “Interrupted sleep: College students sleeping with technology,” published in the Journal of American College Health—explains, “The majority of the sleep texting students had no memory of the texting behavior as well as who or what they texted.”

“The lack of memory is not surprising,” she says, “as sleep research has found that people awakened after sleeping more than a few minutes are usually unable to recall the last few minutes before they fall asleep.”

More than one-quarter (25.6%) of the students in the survey reported that they had texted in their sleep; the majority (72%) of those students reported that they do not remember doing so.

The researchers’ findings offer support for the association between sleep texting and sleep quality. In response to an open-ended question on the survey that respondents answered for the study, one student shared that her creative solution to sleep texting was to wear mittens to bed every night to prevent texting since “moving the phone from being in my bed to next to the bed is not an option, I have to keep my phone with me.”

Utilization of cell phones and texting have become the main means of personal communication for many people. Texting is especially high in adolescents and young adults—who are exchanging as many as 60-100 text messages a day.

Cell phones are not the only type of technology that college students use. Attention to laptops, iPads, iPods, tablets, electronic book readers need to be evaluated. When measuring the amount of sleep during the week compared to the weekend, students with four or more technological devices in their bedroom had significantly less sleep when compared to those with three or fewer devices.

The findings of Dowdell and her College of Nursing co-author, Brianne Q. Clayton, confirm the typical sleep patterns reported in college students who are partially sleep deprived throughout the week and who use the weekends for sleeping. Lack of adequate sleep may be linked to success in school as sleep disturbance has been consistently rated as a top impediment to academic performance in college.

Having minimal adult supervision, erratic schedules, academic pressure, and easy access to over-the-counter, prescription and recreational drugs, college students can be a population particularly susceptible to the deleterious effects of poor sleep, insufficient and irregular sleep, which can lead to significant emotional imbalance, fatigue, poor concentration and generally lower life satisfaction.

Anecdotally, the older adolescents and college students who sleep-text report that most of their messages are gibberish or nonsensical responses to questions. The authors note that the action of college students sleep texting suggests that the messages being sent are more embarrassing than dangerous, and that those who post are most likely not currently members of the work world interacting with clients, bosses, administration, or fellow employees.

Apparently this isn’t just limited to the students in the survey. Plenty of other people shared on social media that they sleep-text, too.

Research contact: elizabeth.dowdell@villanova.edu

Live long and prosper: Americans want to exceed life expectancy, but age 100 may be pushing it

December 6, 2018

Most of us only want to reach a ripe old age only if our lives have not been diminished by mental or physical infirmity, a survey conducted on behalf of Axios on HBO among 3,222 U.S. adults has found.

Specifically, now that medicine and science are making it possible to hit age 90—or even 100—fully 48% of Americans say that, whether more would be merrier depends strictly on quality of life. While most Americans do want to exceed their average life expectancy—77 for men; 81 for women—they are not thrilled with the idea of struggling through that surplus time with a refrain of, “Oy, my back.

And these preferences do not change much as we age. Of respondents in the 18-34 age group, 53% cite quality of life as the main driver for reaching 100; while 47% of those in the 65+ age group say the same.

The poll, fielded by SurveyMonkey, finds that that we all want to be sure we can live independently and won’t be in constant pain.

Among the key findings:

  • Almost seven out of 10 men want to live past their average life expectancy; as would 57% of women.
  • But nearly half of Americans, when asked if they’d like to live past 100, said it depends how much pain they’re in or whether they’d be able to live independently.
  • Nearly three out of 10 say they’re not interested in living past 100, while 22% say they’re open to it.
  • Seniors—people 65 and older—are both the most interested in living past the average life expectancy and the least interested in living beyond 100.

The bottom line, Axios saysQuality of life is important, too. So get over yourself, science.

Research contact: david@axios.com

Daddy’s girls and Mama’s boys: We choose mates who physically resemble our parents

December 5, 2018

Those of us who still remember the old ditty, “I Want a Girl (Just Like the Girl that Married Dear Old Dad),” may be amused to learn that research finally has proven what we (and the lyricist) knew intuitively: We really are attracted to partners who resemble our parents, according to a recent report by Psychology Today.

A 2017 study by academics in the Czech Republic has found that it’s all based on imprinting—the biological phenomenon that explains why ducklings follow the first individual they encounter after hatching. In normal circumstances, that makes sense because the chicks are likely to spot their mother first.

What’s more, the researchers believe that humans imprint on their parents, and that this imprinting affects the type of person whom we find most attractive later in life, Psychology Today reported.

Past research has shown that heterosexual men and women have a “type” when it comes to hair and eye color, and that the type matches their opposite-sex parent. Of course, many of us have the same hair and eye color as our parents, which is why it’s important to test whether we prefer partners who look more like us or more like our parent: the parent wins out.

We also know that women who grow up with an older father tend to prefer older men themselves, the magazine reported.

Lead researcher Zuzana Štěrbová of the National Institute of Mental Health in Prague, along with her research collaborators, decided to investigate whether our parents’ other physical attributes can influence our preferences in mates. They recruited around 900 people who were attracted to men—including ~750 straight women and ~150 gay men.

Each of the volunteers was shown a grid of comprising images of naked men. The volunteers’ task: to pick out the man whose body looked most like their own (if they were male); most like that of their ideal partner; most like that of their current or most recent partner; and most like that of their father, as they remembered him from childhood.

But the images weren’t chosen randomly, Psychology Today said. They were taken from a textbook published in 1954—The Atlas of Men—which depicts a variety of men’s bodies according to their somatotype. A male body’s somatotype can vary from ectomorphic, to endomorphic, to mesomorphic. In simpler language, a man can be skinny, fat, muscled or any point in between.

Štěrbová found that gay men and straight women didn’t vary in their preferences for men’s bodies. Both men and women preferred a man who was somewhat midway between muscled and skinny, and didn’t prefer a man who was fat.

What about the fathers’ body types? The researchers found that straight women’s ideal partner body shape was similar to the body shape of their fathers. The effect was weak, but present in all three components: endomorphy, ectomorphy, and mesomorphy. Gay men’s ideal partners and their fathers were only similarly skinny.

However, these preferences did not seem to translate into the real-world choice of partners, because the volunteers reported that the bodies of their fathers and their actual partners were neither similar nor dissimilar, the magazine reported.

This could be because we are constrained in our ability to choose our partners: We may have to compromise because our preferred partner doesn’t prefer us, we may value other traits more highly than body shape and so choose a partner based more on those instead, or we may have a limited pool of partners to choose from.

In an important further analysis, the researchers showed that women who reported a good childhood relationship with their father were more likely to express a preference for male bodies that were similar to their fathers’. This makes sense if we think of imprinting as a way of modeling our parents’ choice of partner.

In other words, maybe women subconsciously perceive their fathers as a good example of an ideal partner, the study found.

But, if true, it is unclear why there was no such link between the quality of father-child relationship and mate preference in gay men. As the researchers point out, it could be because gay men and lesbians tend to report lower quality relationships with their parents, and it is plausible that for the imprinting-like effect to fully emerge it is necessary that parents and children have a good relationship.

Research contact: @Robert Burriss

Tip sheet: What to give your ‘support team’ this holiday season

December 4, 2018

Of the people who make our lives simpler, cleaner, safer, and easier on the eyes all year-round, a survey by Consumer Reports has found that we are most likely to gift our housekeepers during the holidays—and least likely to tip our trash collectors.

Indeed, fully 60% of us gave gratuities to one or more service providers during the holidays last year, according to the results of the inquiry; which was conducted last spring, in order to ensure that the 2,000-plus respondents remembered what they had given during 2017.

Overall, Americans doled out an average of $45 in tips—up $5 from the prior year. The majority of those fringe benefits were in cash.

“Cash is going to be most prized,” Thomas P. Farley, a New York-based etiquette expert also known as Mister Manners, told the magazine. “Don’t forget, the people we tip may have their own tips they have to give out.”

Housekeepers received the largest gratuities—usually up to one day’s salary—an average of $65. And although just 30% of Americans who used a gardener tipped those service providers, the landscapers who did get tips raked in an average of $50. Hairdressers (52% of whom were gifted) and garbage collectors (14%) were on the lower end of the spectrum, each receiving a median tip of $20.

While it seems as if everyone has a hand out during the holidays, deciding whom to tip doesn’t need to be complicated,  Daniel Post Senning, the great-great-grandson of etiquette maven Emily Post and a spokesperson for the Emily Post Institute, told Consumer Reports.

“To simplify the process, just consider tipping service providers in key areas of your personal life,” he says.

Such people may include those who take care of your family—say, a nanny or health aide—as well as those who take care of your home, like a housekeeper or handyman. Just under half of respondents (41%) made sure to tip their pet-care providers—and the median value was $25.

Where you live can also have a major impact on whom you tip. Senning, who lives in rural Vermont, tips the person who plows his driveway when it snows. For someone in southern Florida, though, the tip may go the person cleaning the swimming pool.

New Yorkers and other urbanites often grapple with how much to tip a doorman, apartment superintendent, or other building worker. There’s no clear answer, but Farley suggests talking to other building residents to get an idea of what’s appropriate. The sum can vary a lot, depending on whether you live in a walk-up row house with a part-time super or in a full-service luxury flat.

You can also consider giving to those who help you look good and stay healthy, such as a stylist, barber, or personal trainer.

Senning pointed out that in some cases it’s inappropriate to tip. “Be careful when it comes to salaried professionals,” he says. “Nurses and doctors, for example, are professionals you shouldn’t tip.”

How about teachers? Consumer Reports’ survey found that 57% of Americans with school-aged children gave teachers a holiday gift. That, however, is not always such a good idea. “You don’t want to create the impression of any tit-for-tat, or that you’re paying someone who is grading your kids,” Senning says.

He advises that you check the gift-giving policy at your child’s school before giving teachers a present. If it’s okay with the school, Senning recommends collecting money for a gift that’s from the entire class. “Make sure it’s clear that the gift comes from everyone, whether they’ve contributed or not,” he says. “The same goes in the office if you’re planning to give a gift to the boss.” 

The sense of obligation can feel stressful and awkward to many people, Senning says.

However, there are ways to ease your jangled nerves. “Rather than looking at tipping as an obligation, we should think of it as an opportunity to honor the people that make our lives better,” Senning says.

gift or prepaid card, placed in a greeting card with a sincere message of thanks, can be a good alternative to the awkwardness of handing over cash. Farley says he prefers bank-based gift cards, like those from Visa or American Express, that aren’t connected to a particular retailer. “I don’t want to presume that the person has a need to download more music on iTunes,” he says.

Senning says that you also can consider sending a gift basket or a tin of cookies. Because those gifts can be shared, they’re especially useful in places where a number of workers provided you with service.

One way of giving to avoid is a peer-to-peer payment through a service such as Apple Pay, Venmo, or Zelle, Farley says. “The act of actually handing someone something, shaking their hand, and thanking them is lost in a P2P transaction,” he notes. “If there were ever a time to give P2P a rest, it would be the holidays, when we’re really looking for the human connection.”

And a few more words of advice from Consumer Reports

  • Be aware that the U.S. Postal Service restricts the gifts that mail carriers can accept. Presents worth up to $20 are fine, but carriers can’t accept cash.
  • Don’t give food unless you’re certain the recipient can eat it. With many people changing to more restrictive diets, your symbol of generosity might end up regiftedor thrown out. Similarly, not every recipient would appreciate wine or spirits as a gift.
  • If you’re giving cash, go to your bank to get nice, crisp bills, which present better and show a bit more effort on your part.
  • If you really can’t afford to buy a gift or give cash—and don’t feel you have the talent or time to bake or make a gift—a heartfelt note of thanks is better than no recognition at all. As Senning points out, money isn’t everything. “We like to say that holiday tipping is really holiday thanking,” he says.

Research contact: @octavionyc

Holiday letters and the fine art of the ‘humble-brag’

December 3, 2018

It’s that time of year when we start receiving holiday cards—and the enclosed family letters and photos that we love to hate. Whether they are from far-off friends or close-by relatives, many of these missives will come with at least a few paragraphs of humble-brags—“complaints” about the outstanding achievements of children, spouses, and the writers, themselves.

An example: “We barely saw 17-year-old Laura this year, because she was so busy with her cheerleading practices, dance recitals, and studying for those straight-A grades so she can apply to Yale.”

Whether it’s telling our friends about our work-related accomplishments, sharing that we’ve bought a new [insert vehicle or gadget of choice here], talking about a first-class trip, describing the new wing we’ve added to our home, or boasting about our children’s talents, we’ve all bragged at one time or another.

We feel good when we share our successes or the successes of those we love. In fact, a paper published in 2012 by two Harvard neuroscientists said that talking about ourselves gives us the same kind of pleasure we get from sex or food.

“Self-disclosure is extra rewarding,” said Harvard neuroscientist Diana Tamir, who conducted the experiments with Harvard colleague Jason Mitchell. Their findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “People were even willing to forgo money in order to talk about themselves,” Tamir said

And yet, says a report in Real Simple, who wants to be known as a braggart? Enter the humble-brag. It’s the kind of bragging we see on social media so frequently. It tells the world just how great your life is then downplays it under the guise of humility or self-deprecating humor (Ack! Just spilled red wine on my new book contract! #bumblingthroughlife).

Ironically, that attempt at minimizing big news can actually work against us, irritating others and turning their perceptions of us to decidedly negative. That’s why so many holiday letters hit the trash so quickly.

Indeed, says Real Simple, bragging is a tricky business. In the real world, we can see how people react to a boast. But on social media sites—or when we send those gossipy holiday letters—we have no face-to-face interaction with the recipients: We don’t have the advantage of catching the recipient with a disengaged look, a snicker, or an eye roll—to tell us to adjust our behavior.

To navigate all that, we may (consciously or subconsciously) “try to neutralize the potential image of [ourselves] … as egocentric, narcissistic, or both, by tempering the brag with a self-deprecating comment or disclaimer, hoping that [recipients] won’t detect the brag—or at least won’t be offended by it,” says Susan Krauss Whitbourne, a University of Massachusetts, Amherst, psychology professor, told the magazine. .

“But humble-bragging is disingenuous,” social media expert Karen North, director of the Annenberg Program on Online Communities at the University of Southern California, told Real Simple in an interview. “It’s manufactured modesty as a guise for overt bragging.”

And it’s this dishonesty that bothers people. The opposing nature of a humble-bragging post (I’m so talented! But I’m so modest!) is annoying because it asks readers to go in two directions at once, reaction-wise.

The magazine offers a few pointers to the authors of holiday letters this season:

  • Boast judiciously.Bragging should represent only a small percentage of what you write. That way when something truly great does happen, you won’t feel the need to underplay it.
  • Know your audience.Think about who is reading your missive and how they might react. Did a close friend just lose his job? Then you might not want to crow about the super-fantastic gig you just landed
  • Note which friends’ annual letters you generally like and which you find annoying.Figure out how the two sets differ. Does one person post in positive language, while the other shares things in a way you find grating? Avoid the latter.
  • Enjoy the outrageous humble-brags out there.Let’s face it, e all know (and even love) some people who will never stop humble-bragging. And now that we have a name for phenomenon, maybe we can just sit back and laugh when it happens.

Research contact: knorth@usc.edu