Posts tagged with "Study"

Knowing just one gay person shifts attitudes

February 12, 2019

It’s not what you know, but who you know that gets you in the door, or that moves a social effort forward. Most of us are familiar with this “old saw”—and now,  Daniel DellaPosta of Penn State University has proven it true again.

DellaPosta—an assistant professor of Sociology at Penn and an affiliate of the university’s Institute for CyberScience—has found that people who meet and become acquainted with at least one gay person are more likely to later change their minds about same-sex marriage; and become more accepting of gay and lesbian people in general,

 Indeed, friendship bonds that may seem superficial at first glance could be just deep enough to produce attitude changes that help spark social transformations.

According to DellaPosta, sociologists have long proposed that when people establish certain relationships, they may change their attitudes about issues, often referred to as the contact effect. However, prior to this study, the theory had yet to be rigorously tested.

“What I thought we needed in this area was a test of the contact hypothesis that was conservative — perhaps overly conservative—using the most stringent test we could possibly devise,” said DellaPosta.

DellaPosta examined data from the 2006, 2008, and 2010 editions of General Social Survey (GSS), a sociological survey of opinions that Americans hold on a range of issues.

In 2006, about 45% of the people who had a gay or lesbian acquaintance expressed support for same-sex marriage. By 2010, that figure had increased to 61%. In 2006, only 22% of people who did not have a gay or lesbian acquaintance said they approved of same-sex marriage. That number fell to 18% in 2010.

DellaPosta said that the survey data does not reveal exactly when these relationships were established, which makes the test more rigorous.

“By taking people in that 2006 baseline who were acquainted with gay and lesbian people and comparing them with other people who were similar in all visible regards, including their measured attitude toward same-sex marriage and gay and lesbian people at that 2006 baseline, who were not acquainted with gay and lesbian people, you can get a really conservative test of the contact hypothesis,” said DellaPosta, who reported his findings in a recent issue of the journal Socius.

The findings could shed light on how “coming out” among gay and lesbian people impacts the general acceptance of gay and lesbian people. In the 1973 GSS, just 11% of Americans believed that “homosexuality is not wrong at all.” By 2016, that number had grown to 52%.

DellaPosta suggests that coming out may facilitate more contact with gay and lesbian people, which then accelerates an attitude change about issues that affect the gay community.

Further, DellaPosta suggested that the contact with a gay person does not even need to be especially deep for the contact effect to appear.

“If you have very superficial contact, like just seeing someone from an out group in the grocery store or on the subway, you may focus more on selective behaviors that reinforce your prejudices—like someone dressing, talking or acting in a way that reinforces some negative stereotype of that group,” said DellaPosta.

“But, if you take the next level to mere acquaintanceship—someone whose name you know, someone who, if you saw them on the street, you might stop and chat with them for a moment—the contact effect sets in because when you suddenly have to interact with someone from an out group as an individual, it forces you to reconsider your biases.”

According to DellaPosta, having a closer, deeper bond with a gay or lesbian acquaintance did not result in an even larger shift of attitude toward same-sex marriage. He added that the contact effect actually is larger for people who have a low probability of having a gay or lesbian acquaintance.

Research contact: djd78@psu.edu

Eye contact: As plain as the nose on your face

February 5, 2019

For years, we’ve been told that eye contact is essential to establishing relationships—and that failing to meet a hiring manager’s eyes during a job interview foils any chance of employment.

But just recently, researchers at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia, have found that simply staring somewhere between the forehead and the chin of a conversational partner will suffice, based on a February 5 report by Science Daily.

Yes, eye contact might be all in our heads.

Lead author Dr, Shane Rogers a lecturer in the School of Arts and Humanities, believes that, for those of us who experience social anxiety when making eye contact—or when being engaged eye-to-eye—this finding will be welcome news.

“Maintaining strong eye contact is widely accepted to be an important communication skill in western cultures,” he notes. “People [have been led to] believe if you aren’t willing to engage in soul-to-soul mutual eye contact then you are at best lacking in confidence; at worst, untrustworthy.

“However, the reverence devoted to eye contact is not supported by scientific evidence,” he asserts.

During the course of the study, a researcher engaged in four-minute conversations with 46 participants, during which both parties wore Tobii eye-tracking glasses.

“For approximately half the conversations the researcher looked at the eyes most of the time; for the other half, [they] gazed predominantly at the mouth,” Dr. Rogers explains..

After the conversations, the participants rated how much they enjoyed the conversations.

“The mouth group perceived the same amount of eye contact and enjoyed the conversations just as much as the eye group,” Dr. Rogers comments.

According to Rogers, the results suggest that—when specifically focused on trying to determine the direction of a partner’s glance—people demonstrate a limited capacity to identify it accurately.

“People are not very sensitive to the specific gaze focus of their partner to their face; instead they perceive direct gaze towards their face as eye contact,” Dr Rogers says.

“So don’t get hung up on seeking out the eyes of your audience, just look generally at their face, and let the eye contact illusion experienced by your partner do the work for you,” he recommends.

Research contact: shane.rogers@ecu.edu.au

Giving up the ‘ghost’: How people are ending relationships

January 28, 2019

Now you see them (and hear from them); now you don’t. In friendships, familial relationships, work situations, and, yes, romantic partnerships, “ghosting” has become the no-warning, no-fuss, no-closure way to exit.

Even job candidates have been known to ghost scheduled interviews in a thriving economy.

Indeed, the term, “ghosting,” has been used to describe the act of simply disappearing from somebody’s life by ignoring their calls, texts, and social media messages, Psychology Today reports.

But how common is ghosting, how do people feel about it, and who is likely to do it? New research by Gili Freedman of Dartmouth College and colleagues Darcey N. Powel of Roanoke College, and Benjamin Le of Haverford College—published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships—explores these questions. The team conducted two large-scale online surveys of American adults. The first included 554 participants; the second, 747.2

In both studies, about 25% of participants claimed that they had been ghosted by a previous partner, and about 20 percent indicated that they had ghosted someone else.

The second study also examined ghosting in friendships and found that it was somewhat more common: 31.7% had ghosted a friend, and 38.6% had been ghosted by a friend.

It’s no surprise that most people found ghosting to be an unacceptable way to end a relationship. However, how acceptable people found it to be depended on the type of relationship. In the first study, 28% of respondents felt it was acceptable to ghost after just one date, whereas only 4.7% believed that it was an acceptable way to end a long-term romantic relationship.

When it came to short-term relationships, 19.5% tjhought that ghosting was acceptable. In addition, the majority of participants (69.1%) said that knowing someone had ghosted a romantic partner would make them think more negatively of that person.

Respondents also generally believed that ghosting friends was not that acceptable, but they typically commented that it was more acceptable to ghost friends than romantic partners.

This is consistent with other research in which participants were asked how they felt about being on the receiving end of various break-up methods. Iin that study, cutting off contact was considered one of the least desirable ways to end a relationship.3

What individuals are most likely to ghost? The research showed that those higher in destiny beliefs—those who thought a relation either is “meant to be” or not—were more likely to think that ghosting was acceptable and were less likely to think poorly of the ghoster. What’s more, they also were likely to report that they would consider ghosting as a viable option for breaking up with a partner and to say that they had ghosted someone in the past.

Interestingly enough, the extent to which participants endorsed growth beliefs—those that thought that relationships take work—was, for the most part, not related to their ghosting behavior or attitudes.

It is likely that there are many other characteristics that predict ghosting, Psychology Today said.

Past research has shown that those who are insecure in their relationships tend to feel stronger negative emotions during conflict and experience more stress after a conflict, the news outlet reported. So those who are insecurely attached may be more likely to ghost as a way to avoid the upsetting experience and aftermath of conflict.

It is also likely that those high in narcissism would be more prone to ghosting, as they tend to lack empathy for partners and see them as a means to an end.8

Finally, the newer research also does not answer the question of whether ghosting has become more common in the modern age of texting and social media. It is reasonable to assume it has, Psychology Today says—given the large role that electronic communication plays in relationships. A partner’s ghosting may be the first sign that something is wrong, and once you’ve been ghosted, you may be unlikely to seek an in-person confrontation.

Ghosting may also be easier to get away with in certain modern relationship contexts. For example, online dating has become increasingly popular—with about 25% of young adults using it as a way to meet new partners. Without a mutual social network tying you to a partner, it may be a lot easier to just disappear and not be held accountable.

The magazine warns, if you’re considering taking the easy way out of a relationship, realize that ghosting will not only hurt your partner, but is likely to hurt your reputation.

Research contact: @psychologytoday

At a loss for words? It’s the ‘tip-of-the-tongue’ phenomenon

January 23, 2019

You are watching TV and you see an actor who played a leading role in a sitcom you used to love. Now, what was the name of that show? If you could just remember the character he played, or the first letter of the title, or make some other connection that will close a vital synapse in your brain. You think that the first word starts with a B and has two syllables. You know you can remember this: It’s right on the tip of your tongue.

It’s a sensation that we are all familiar with, according to Verywellmind—and it turns out that this common state actually has a name. It is known as lethologica or the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenonPsychologists define this phenomenon as a feeling that accompanies the temporary inability to retrieve information from memory.

And if you become obsessed with recalling that word, it’s called loganamnosis. Most of us try not to torment ourselves for too long in the belief (perhaps mistaken) that, if we forget about it for a few moments, it will just “come” to us. When something finally does trigger the retrieval of the memory—or when someone else offers up the missing information—the relief of those feelings of frustration is palpable.

Indeed, it really does happen to most of us. Surveys suggest that about 90% of speakers worldwide experience the tip of the tongue phenomenon—and that older adults may have these “senior moments” as often as once a day, while younger folks may find themselves searching for a word about once a week.

According to Verywellmind, some researchers have found that tip-of-the-tongue states may play an adaptive role in the memory and learning process—that the more time people spend attending to a tip-of-the-tongue experience, the better their learning and memory of that material will be in the future.

However, based on results of a study conducted at McMaster University in Ontario—and published in Science News—other researchers have found that concentrating on recalling information that seems to be on the tip of your tongue may actually be problematic. While it may be tempting to spend some time struggling to find the answer, psychologists Karin Humphreys and Amy Beth Warriner suggest that the more time you spend trying to remember a word on the tip of your tongue, the more likely that you’ll struggle with the word again in the future.

It’s akin to spinning one’s tires in the snow: Despite your perseverance, you’re only digging yourself a deeper rut,” the researchers explained in their report.

Humphreys own interest in the topic came from personal experience struggling to remember certain words that seemed to continually pose a challenge.

“This can be incredibly frustrating—you know you know the word, but you just can’t quite get it,” she notes. “And once you have it, it is such a relief that you can’t imagine ever forgetting it again. But then you do. So we began thinking about the mechanisms that might underlie this phenomenon.”

What they found after challenging 30 students to see if they could retrieve words after being given a definition—e.g., “What do you call an instrument for performing calculations by sliding beads along rods or grooves?” (Answer: abacus)—was that it might not be a case of everyone having certain words that are difficult for them to remember, but that by getting into a tip-of-the-tongue state on a particular word once, they actually learn to go into that incorrect state when they try to retrieve the same word again.”

When they repeated the questions two days later, the subjects tended to experience tip-of-the-tongue on the same words they had difficulty retrieving before. The longer the time they had spent in the error state, the greater the problem in finding the word again.

Warriner advises that, to break the cycle, it is best to repeat the retrieved word to yourself, either silently or aloud, several times.

The good news, according to Verywellmind, is that, while tip-of-the-tongue states are often learned and tend to recur, the incorrect learning can be corrected either through resolving the problem spontaneously or by using cues to trigger the retrieval of the information. And it doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you. You just may be stressed out or tired.

Finally, if you ever have had that elusive answer suddenly pop into your head, often when you were not even trying to think of it, then you have experienced the “spontaneous resolution” of lethologica.

Research contact: krh@mcmaster.ca

Hitting home: When report cards go out on Fridays, child abuse escalates on Saturdays

December 24, 2018

The Earthly equivalent of Judgment Day is the moment when students receive their report cards. They fear the teacher’s no-holds-barred assessment: How smart is this pupil? How talented? How athletic? How adept and poised in social situations? How determined to succeed?

But, while some students worry they won’t “ace” their grades, others are dealing with more dire misgivings: A new study has found that large numbers of elementary school students are physically abused by their parents after report cards hit home.

The research—conducted by professionals at the University of Florida, Georgia State University, and Harvard University; and published in the December 17 edition of JAMA Pediatrics—found that, across a single academic year in the state of Florida, nearly 2,000 children had been abused after report cards were released on Friday afternoons.

Specifically, when report cards were distributed Monday through Thursday, researchers did not document increased rates of home-based child physical abuse—either on the same day or on the day after the release. However, the researchers found nearly a fourfold increase in the incidence rate of verified child physical abuse on the Saturdays after a Friday report card release.

The study focused on children ages 5 through 11; and relied on reports called in to the Florida Department of Children and Families abuse hotline during the 2015-16 academic year.

Melissa A. Bright, the lead author of the study, told The New York Times in an interview that the idea for the research came from the personal accounts of pediatricians and teachers, who saw a pattern of abuse shortly after report cards were released. Dr. Bright, a researcher at the University of Florida who focuses on child maltreatment, said some teachers told her they worried about their students after grades were released.

Dr. Randell C. Alexander of Jacksonville, Florida, a pediatrician who specializes in treating victims of abuse, told the Times that for years he and his colleagues had heard children recount episodes of violence arising from unsatisfactory grades. They would see children with black eyes, marks from belts and electrical cords; and, at times, more serious injuries, he said.

“When you say, ‘How did you get it?,’ they say it’s because of their report card,” said Dr. Alexander, an author of the study and the chief of the Child Protection and Forensic Pediatrics division of the University of Florida’s College of Medicine-Jacksonville.

When doctors asked parents why they hit their children, sometimes they would answer, “Because they got a C,” he said.

Researchers set out to collect data that could shed light on whether there were patterns in the timing of the abuse.

“We know a lot about what predicts child abuse,” Dr. Bright said. “But we don’t know when. If we have a better idea of when child abuse happens, then we can target our prevention efforts more effectively.”

Researchers were surprised to find an association between verified reports of abuse and report cards only when the grades were released on a Friday.

On weekdays, caregivers may have been too “distracted” to punish their children, researchers speculated. Dr. Bright added that children might have been spared punishments on weekdays because they would be attending school the next day, and teachers are legally bound to report evidence of abuse. Alcohol use by caregivers on weekends might also have played a role, she added.

The study also looked only at public schools that distribute paper report cards, excluding potential reactions from caregivers who looked at grades online. And, of course, the data excluded instances of child abuse that went unreported.

Of the counties researchers tracked, Fridays were the most popular day to release report cards, accounting for about 31%.

Dr. Bright told the Times that one practical solution would be shifting report card distribution from Friday to a day earlier in the week, giving teachers an opportunity to keep tabs on their students after they get their grades.

Research contact: @juliarebeccaj

Stairway to heaven? If you can’t run up four flights, you may be at risk

December 17, 2018

Every February, hundreds of competitors dash up 86 flights—or 1,576 stairs—during the Empire State Building Run-Up challenge in midtown Manhattan—and, amazingly enough, the winners usually reach the Observation Deck in 10-12 minutes. But how many steps could the average American heave himself (or herself) up before getting short of breath (or literally heaving)?

A study presented at a European Society of Cardiology meeting in Milan earlier this month by Spanish researchers has found that high performers on an exercise test have a lower risk of death from heart disease, cancer, or other causes—and the level of fitness required for those life-extending benefits turns out to be about the same as quickly climbing four flights of stairs without stopping, Health magazine reported on December 6.

According to the report, the researchers—led by study author Dr. Jesús Peteiro, a cardiologist at University Hospital A Coruña, A Coruña, Spain—recruited more than 12,000 people who had been diagnosed with or who were thought to have coronary artery disease. They asked the participants to walk or run on a treadmill, gradually increasing the intensity of the exercise until they were exhausted. During each session, the researchers used exercise echocardiography on the participants in order to measure how their hearts responded to physical exertion.

Their fitness levels were calculated in what’s called METs, or metabolic equivalents. One measly MET represents the energy it takes for a person to sit in front of a computer (relatively) calmly, Health reported. People in the study who could handle ten METs of treadmill activity were deemed to be high performers on the test—or to have good “functional capacity.

There were big health wins for those folks in the research: Compared to people with poor functional capacity, the high performers were less likely to die from cancer, heart disease, or other causes over the following five years or so. For every additional MET achieved in the test, their risk of dying from those causes decreased by 9%, 9%, and 4%, respectively.

Without access to a fancy sci-fi treadmill setup, how can us normals calculate our METs? That’s where the stairs come in.

“There are much cheaper ways to estimate if you could achieve 10 METs on the treadmill test,” Dr. Peteiro said in a statement. “If you can walk very fast up three floors of stairs without stopping, or fast up four floors without stopping, you have good functional capacity. If not, it’s a good indication that you need more exercise.”

Indeed, the doctor told the TODAY show, if you can do those four floors in under a minute, you can consider yourself fit.

“Our results provide further evidence of the benefits of exercise and being fit on health and longevity,” Dr. Peteiro said in the statement. “In addition to keeping body weight down, physical activity has positive effects on blood pressure and lipids, reduces inflammation, and improves the body’s immune response to tumors.” You’ve heard it all before, sure—but only 19% of women get enough exercise, so it’s worth repeating.

How much exercise is enough? According to recently updated guidelines for Americans, Health magazine notes, we should be aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week, in addition to some strength-training. Which, by the way, you can even do on the stairs.

Research contact: @good health

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

When parents are gay, the kids are okay

November 29, 2018

A study conducted by researchers from the University of Amsterdam, UCLA School of Law in Los Angeles, and Columbia University in New York City has found that the children of same-sex parents are just as healthy emotionally and physically as the children of different-sex parents, CNN reports..

Dr. Nanette Gartrell of UCLA, one of the study’s authors, told CNN that the researchers intended to provide a real population-based, apples-to-apples comparison.

It is the only study to compare same-sex and different-sex parent households with stable, continuously coupled parents and their biological offspring,” Gartrell said, noting that she and her colleagues tried to compensate for the shortcomings of previous investigations—which recruited same-sex parent families and could thus establish a certain selection bias. “It’s been a goal of ours to do a nationally representative survey in which we could do this very carefully matched study,” she said

Using the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children’s Health, provided by the National Center for Health Statistics at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the researchers matched 95 same-sex female parent households to 95 different-sex parent households based on the following characteristics:

  • Parents’ age,
  • Parents’ level of education,
  • Whether parents were born in the United States,
  • Whether the child was born in the United States or elsewhere
  • Family residence (urban or rural),
  • Child’s age,
  • Child’s race, and
  • Child’s gender.

The study found that there were no differences in the children when it came to their general health, their emotional difficulties, their coping behaviors, or their learning behaviors. What the study found to be more indicative predictors of these behaviors were the relationships between the parents, the parents and the child, and parenting stressors.

The study did note that lesbian parents seem to exhibit higher levels of parenting stress, which Gartell attributed to perceived homophobia. “Parents feel pressured to justify the quality of their parenting more than their heterosexual counterparts. We also suspect and feel that more study is warranted, but the cultural spotlight on same-sex parenting may be part of the stress,” she told the news outlet.

Those who oppose same-sex parenting have pointed to studies—such as one conducted at the Catholic University of America several years ago—that have found gay parents to have a negative impact on childhood outcomes, such as lower levels of income, and poorer mental and physical health

Gartell told CNN that such studies did not compensate for the fact that they were comparing children from same-sex couples who were not continuously coupled. Rather, those studies looked at children from same-sex families who experienced family upheaval such as divorce, adoption or foster care and compared them to children from stable households with different-sex parents.

The current study only looked at lesbian households, she said, because when households were finally matched and controlled for continuous relationships, there were too few male same-sex households.

Gartrell said this is by no means the final study to be done on same-sex parenting. “We still have so much to learn and find out about different types of families,” she commented.

Research contact: ngartrell@nlfs.org

‘Sensational’ study: Coffee’s bitter taste gives drinkers a ‘buzz’

November 19, 2018

While the aroma of coffee is enticing and pleasurable, most people find the taste to be bitter. However, a study published in Scientific Reports this month—and covered in a report by NPR—has found that, the more sensitive you are to the bitter taste of coffee, the more of it you tend to drink.

A team of researchers from the Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States conducted the investigation using data stored in the UK Biobank, a major global health resource established over a decade ago by the Wellcome Trust medical charity, Medical Research Council, Department of Health, and the Scottish Government—and supported by the National Health Service..

More than 500,000 residents of England , Scotland, and Wales between the ages of 37 and 73 contributed blood, urine, and saliva samples to the Biobank between 2006 and 2010—and agreed to have their health status tracked, in order to determine which diseases and health conditions they would develop during the remainder of their lives.

The same volunteers also filled out questionnaires asking a variety of health-related questions—including how much coffee, tea, and alcohol they drank on a daily basis.

Since most of us inherit our taste preferences from our parents, the researchers used genetic analysis of samples from the Biobank to find people who were more or less sensitive to three bitter substances: caffeine, quinine (think tonic water) and a chemical called propylthiouracil that is frequently used in genetic tests of people’s ability to taste bitter compounds.

The objective was to determine whether people sensitive to one or more of these three substances drank more or less coffee than other drinkers. Surprising, NPR reports, people who exhibited greater sensitivity to caffeine reported higher coffee consumption, compared with people who did not strongly perceive the bitter taste. Strangely enough, the researchers said, “opposite relationships were observed for tea consumption.”

Conversely, those who were sensitive to quinine and propylthiouracil—neither of which is in coffee—tended to drink less coffee on a daily basis. For alcohol, a higher perceived intensity of propylthiouracil (bitterness) was associated with lower overall consumption.

How to explain these results? NPR reports that Marilyn Cornelis, assistant professor of Preventative Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and one of the study authors, says people may “learn to associate that bitter taste with the stimulation that coffee can provide.” In other words, they get hooked on the buzz.

And it turns out those who drink two or three cups a day just might live longer, too.

Research contact: @joesbigidea

Are you ‘hangry’ when you miss a meal?

October 12, 2018

Next time you feel irritable, anxious, and hungry—along with possible symptoms of trembling, weakness and dizziness—reach for a snack. Chances are, it has been several hours since your last meal and you may be “hangry”—a real condition associated with hypoglycemia.

Researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada have confirmed that being hangry is not just a social excuse; it’s a valid medical complaint—caused by the sudden drop in glucose we experience when we are feeling famished.

“We found evidence that a change in glucose level can have a lasting effect on mood,” said Professor Francesco Leri of the school’s Department of Psychology. “I was skeptical when people would tell me that they get grouchy if they don’t eat, but now I believe it. Hypoglycemia is a strong physiological and psychological stressor.

“The study examined the impact of a sudden glucose drop on emotional behavior by inducing hypoglycemia in rats.

“When people think about negative mood states and stress, they think about the psychological factors, not necessarily the metabolic factors,” said Ph.D. student Thomas Horman, who led the study. “But we found poor eating behavior can have an impact.”

The rats were injected with a glucose metabolism blocker causing them to experience hypoglycemia, and were then placed in a specific chamber. On a separate occasion, they were given an injection of water and placed in a different chamber. When given the choice of which chamber to enter, they actively avoided the chamber where they experienced hypoglycemia.

This type of avoidance behavior is an expression of stress and anxiety,” said Leri. “The animals are avoiding that chamber because they had a stressful experience there. They don’t want to experience it again.”

The researchers tested blood levels of the rats after experiencing hypoglycemia and found more corticosterone, an indicator of physiological stress.The rats also appeared more sluggish when given the glucose metabolism blocker.

“You might argue that this is because they need glucose to make their muscles work,” said Leri. “But when we gave them a commonly used antidepressant medication, the sluggish behavior was not observed. The animals moved around normally. This is interesting because their muscles still weren’t getting the glucose, yet their behavior changed.”

This finding supports the idea that the animals experienced stress and depressed mood when they were hypoglycemic, he said.

For people who experience anxiety or depression, the study results have implications for treatment, said Horman.

“The factors that lead someone to develop depression and anxiety can be different from one person to the next. Knowing that nutrition is a factor, we can include eating habits into possible treatment.”

These findings also provide insight into the connection between depression and diseases such as obesity, diabetes, bulimia and anorexia, Horman said.

Having established that hypoglycemia contributes to negative mood states, the researchers plan to determine whether chronic, long-term hypoglycemia is a risk factor for developing depression-like behaviors.

While missing one meal may make you “hangry,” Horman said, these findings suggest your mood could be impacted if meal-skipping becomes a habit.

“Poor mood and poor eating can become a vicious cycle in that if a person isn’t eating properly, they can experience a drop in mood, and this drop in mood can make them not want to eat. If someone is constantly missing meals and constantly experiencing this stressor, the response could affect their emotional state on a more constant level.”

Research contact: fleri@uoguelph.ca