Always look on the bright side of life.
Well don’t. It turns out it might not be the best advice after all and could actually be BAD for your health, experts warn.
Feeling stressed can help people cope better with bad news, scientists have discovered.
It adds to increasing evidence that pressure is sometimes a good thing and sheds fresh light on mental health problems like depression.
Most people have a tendency to dismiss bad tidings and instead are over-optimistic.
But some people, such as those with depression, focus more on negative information which can actually help them process bad news better.
The new findings showed being able to switch from looking on the bright side to focusing on negatives can be a healthy, adaptive response to change.
Scientists created stressful situations in lab experiments, telling 36 young men and women they had to give a surprise speech in public.
They then asked them to estimate their likelihood of experiencing 40 different adverse events in their life – such as being involved in a car accident or becoming a victim of card fraud.
The volunteers were then given either good or bad news – being told their likelihood of experiencing these events was lower or higher than they had estimated.
The group given bad news – told it was likely these bad events would happen – showed higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
And the scientists noted they became better at processing the bad news.
The researchers obtained similar results in a study of 28 Colorado firefighters who naturally experience fluctuating periods of stress as part of their job.
Lead author Dr Neil Garrett, a psychologist at University College London, said: “Humans are better at integrating desirable information into their beliefs than undesirable.
“This asymmetry poses an evolutionary puzzle, as it can lead to an underestimation of risk and thus failure to take precautionary action.
“Here, we suggest a mechanism that can speak to this conundrum.
“This pattern of results was observed in a controlled laboratory setting, where perceived threat was manipulated and in firefighters on duty where it naturally varied.
“Such flexibility in how individuals integrate information may enhance the likelihood of responding to warnings with caution in environments rife with threat, while maintaining a positivity bias otherwise, a strategy that can increase well-being.”
Dr Garrett and colleagues said the tendency to be overly optimistic has mystified experts for decades.
“Here, we demonstrate a mechanism generating the optimism bias, namely asymmetric information integration, evaporates under threat,” he added.
“Such flexibility could result in enhanced caution in dangerous environments while supporting an optimism bias otherwise – potentially increasing well-being.”
The findings were published in the journal JNeurosci.
Another study showed that supporters of American President Donald Trump as racists is false.
The study finds that much of the research conducted on President Trump’s voters is marred by prejudicial designs, distorted data, and outright misrepresentation of Trump’s words.
Led by Musa al-Gharbi, a Columbia University sociologist, “On Social Research in the Age of Trump” analyzes three case studies of academic research on Trump to illustrate the various ways that academics have misrepresented the president and his voter base to the public.
One example of this phenomena can be seen in the April 2017 Washington Post article “Racism motivated Trump voters more than authoritarianism,” by Thomas Wood, who teaches political science classes at Ohio State University.
While Wood cites survey data to claim that Trump voters were especially motivated by racism, a closer analysis by al-Gharbi reveals that Wood’s arguments about Trump voters can’t be substantiated from the data cited in the article.
“According to Wood’s own data, whites who voted for Trump are perhaps less racist than those who voted for Romney,” al-Gharbi explains, adding that “not only were they less authoritarian than Romney voters, but less racist too!”
“Unfortunately, Wood declined to consider how Trump voters differed from Romney voters…instead focusing on the gap between Democrats and Republicans in 2016, in the service of a conclusion his data do not support,” he adds.
This uncharitable misrepresentation of data is one of many ways that Trump voters are marred by researchers, al-Gharbi says, asserting that the “evidence suggests that the role of race has been widely overblown and misunderstood with respect to Trump’s victory.”
In an interview with Campus Reform, al-Gharbi admitted that he was motivated to research this topic “in part to help Trump’s opposition do better next round.”
“But I also take umbrage at the villainization of Trump supporters,” he added, noting that he “grew up in a conservative, religious, military community in Arizona along the United States and Mexico Border.”
“Trump voters aren’t some mysterious exotic demonic force for me. They are my family, childhood friends, former co-workers, etc,” he said. “Given this background, I strongly suspected that the cartoonish version of these voters [promulgated by academics in the media] was likely not going to be well-supported by any kind of more even-handed analysis of the available data.”
Still, while al-Gharbi has found that many scholars misrepresent Trump’s voter base, he doesn’t ascribe malice to their intentions. Instead, he worries that even academics who strive to be impartial can fall into a “confirmation bias” trap, unintentionally allowing their personal biases to influence research results, oftentimes without realizing it.
To fix this “very widespread” issue, al-Gharbi suggests that research on politically divisive issues could be fact-checked by an editor with an opposing viewpoint. Unfortunately, these types of checks and balances are extremely rare in academia, he says.
“Basically everyone in these institutions hates the president and are willing—eager even—to believe the worst about his supporters,” he maintained.
Musa al-Gharbi’s research was published in the latest issue of The American Sociologist, a peer-reviewed journal that also recently published an article revealing that only two percent of sociology professors self-identify as conservative.
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
August 7th, 2018