Ten Essential Psych Studies of 2014: Making Narcissists Empathise, Memory Boosting Spice And More…

In 2014 we learned which habits make you feel happy, the emotion which lasts the longest and much more…

In 2014 we learned which habits make you feel happy, the emotion which lasts the longest and much more…

1. How to get a narcissist to feel empathy

Narcissists usually aren’t much interested in other people’s suffering or, for that matter, any of other people’s feelings.

But a study published this year found that narcissists can be made to feel empathy, if given a nudge in the right direction (note: throughout this article, follow the links for more info).

Erica Hepper, the study’s author, explained:

“If we encourage narcissists to consider the situation from their teammate or friend’s point of view, they are likely to respond in a much more considerate or sympathetic way.”

It’s not that narcissists can’t feel for others it’s that they need reminding, Hepper said:

“…narcissists’ low empathy is automatic (instead of consciously suppressed or under-reported), and also that perspective-taking induces genuine change in the way that narcissists process a distressed person’s experience.”

2. The emotion which lasts 240 times longer than others

Sadness is the longest lasting of the emotions, found one of the first ever studies to look at why some emotions last much longer than others.

When compared with being irritated, ashamed, surprised and even bored; it’s sadness which outlasts the others.

At the extremes, while disgust and shame tended to pass within 30 minutes, sadness continued on for an average of 120 hours.

Saskia Lavrijsen, who co-authored the study, explained:

“Rumination is the central determinant of why some emotions last longer than others.

Emotions associated with high levels of rumination will last longest.

Emotions of shorter duration are typically — but, of course, not always — elicited by events of relatively low importance.

On the other hand, long-lasting emotions tend to be about something highly important.”

3. 10 simple habits proven to make you happier

Here are ten everyday habits which science has shown can make people happier.

  1. Giving: do things for others
  2. Relating: connect with people
  3. Exercising: take care of your body
  4. Appreciating: notice the world around
  5. Trying out: keep learning new things
  6. Direction: have goals to look forward to
  7. Resilience: find ways to bounce back
  8. Emotion: take a positive approach
  9. Acceptance: be comfortable with who you are
  10. Meaning: be part of something bigger

A survey asked people which happy habits they actually practised and how they felt.

This found one of the largest associations between happiness and self-acceptance, despite the fact that people performed this habit the least.

4. Just 1 gram of this spice boosts memory in six hours

One gram of turmeric at breakfast was shown by a study in 2014 to improve memory in people with pre-diabetes.

Professor Wahlqvist, who led the Taiwanese study, explained the results:

“We found that this modest addition to breakfast improved working memory over six hours in older people with pre-diabetes.”

Turmeric’s distinctive yellow colour is given to it by a substance called curcumin, which makes up between 3-6% of turmeric.

It is the curcumin which is thought to have an active effect in reducing the memory problems associated with dementia.

5. The number of children that makes parents happiest

First and second children provide parents a boost in happiness up to a year before they are born but the third does not, new research found this year.

The increase in happiness lasts around one year from birth, after which some parents’ happiness returns to its usual pre-baby levels.

Parents who are highly educated or have their first children between the ages of 35 and 49 show the strongest gains in happiness around the birth of their children.

6. Two personal qualities more vital to success than IQ

Being open to experience and conscientious is four times more important than intelligence in predicting academic success, a review of the research found.

People who are open to experience are more likely to be imaginative, sensitive to their feelings, intellectually curious and seekers of variety.

Conscientious people, meanwhile, are disciplined, dutiful and good at planning ahead.

7. Memory loss from Alzheimer’s reversed with new approach

Memory loss in patients with Alzheimer’s disease may be reversed — and the improvement sustained — using a novel treatment approach, a small exploratory study found in 2014.

The study, which included 10 patients, used a combination of therapies which were personalised to help them reverse memory loss.

Each patient was given a specialised program, which often included things like exercise, optimising sleep, practising yoga, brain stimulation and taking supplements such as vitamin D3 and melatonin.

Within three to six months of the treatment all but one of the patients was seeing either objective or subjective improvements in their memory.

8. Husband or wife? The partner whose happiness matters more for the marriage

For marital quality, it seems the wife’s happiness matters more than the husband’s.

When the wife is happy with a long-term partnership, the husband is happier, no matter how he feels about the marriage.

Professor Deborah Carr, the study’s first author said:

“I think it comes down to the fact that when a wife is satisfied with the marriage she tends to do a lot more for her husband, which has a positive effect on his life.

Men tend to be less vocal about their relationships and their level of marital unhappiness might not be translated to their wives.”

9. This beverage reversed normal age-related memory loss

Cocoa flavanoids — like those contained in a cup of cocoa — can reverse age-related memory loss in older adults, a study found.

This is the first direct evidence that an important component of memory decline that comes with age can be improved with a simple dietary change.

Professor Scott A. Small, one of the study’s authors, explained the results:

“If a participant had the memory of a typical 60-year-old at the beginning of the study, after three months that person on average had the memory of a typical 30- or 40-year-old.”

10. Why you should talk to strangers

By shunning the company of strangers during the daily commute, people could be missing out on a vital little lift to their day, a study found.

It turns out that the commute can be made more positive when people talk to strangers.

One of the study’s authors, Professor Nicholas Epley, explained:

“Connecting with strangers on a train may not bring the same long-term benefits as connecting with friends, but commuters on a train into downtown Chicago reported a significantly more positive commute when they connected with a stranger than when they sat in solitude.”

The fact that this was the opposite of what they expected is fascinating.

Professor Epley continued:

“This misunderstanding is particularly unfortunate for a person’s well-being given that commuting is consistently reported to be one of the least pleasant experiences in the average person’s day.

This experiment suggests that a surprising antidote for an otherwise unpleasant experience could be sitting very close by.”

Image credit: ihave3kids

Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.

Get free email updates

Join the free PsyBlog mailing list. No spam, ever.