News Briefs: Gut Instinct & Opinions; Mindfulness Meditation & Tolerance of Pain; First Impressions

People Who Trust Their Gut Instinct Tend to Hold Their Opinions More Strongly

When you make a decision you may try to arrive at your choice logically with much deliberation. Or you may be someone who lets your gut instinct or a hunch sway your thinking. In an unusual study of the decision-making process, researchers found that people who rely on instinct rather than logic hold more certain attitudes toward their choices and will advocate more strongly for them. In the study, published by the American Psychological Association in the journal Emotion, researchers asked more than 450 volunteers to select from a series of similar items, such as DVD players, restaurants, coffee mugs, and apartments. The participants were then instructed to make their selections using their intuition or logic and analysis. The participants who made intuitive decisions were more likely to say that their choices better reflected their true selves and also reported feeling more certain of their decisions compared with those who were more deliberative. The researchers noted that when decisions are made by instinct, people believe that the choices are more consistent with their other beliefs and what is essentially true about themselves. Researchers also said that making a gut decision is a double-edged sword. For example, choosing an exercise program just because you like the activity may make you more inclined to stick with it. However, making gut decisions about political candidates or other important matters may lead to unwanted consequences.

Mindfulness Meditation May Help You Better Tolerate Pain

Mindfulness is a state of heightened awareness, in which you take in the present moment without judgment or extreme emotional response. Mindfulness training is often done to help people become less anxious and stressed. In a recent study, researchers found that people who are more mindful than others may also feel less pain. In the journal Pain, researchers analyzed data from a 2015 study that compared mindfulness meditation to placebo analgesia (pain relief). In the new study, researchers sought to determine a person’s innate or natural level of mindfulness. Participants who had never had any mindfulness meditation training were exposed to painful heat stimulation while the researchers performed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The brain imaging detected changes in a region of the brain called the posterior cingulate cortex. Higher dispositional mindfulness was associated with a deactivation of the posterior cingulate cortex. People who had lower levels of mindfulness displayed greater activation of this important region, which is part of the brain’s default mode network. The default mode network disengages when you’re engaged in a task such as reading or writing. When you stop that task, the default mode network activates and the brain reverts more to emotions and self-related feelings and thoughts. Researchers believe that the posterior cingulate cortex may be a target for pain-relief therapies, and that mindfulness training may be an effective way of helping people better deal with pain.

Research Shows You May Make a Better First Impression Than You Think

When you meet someone new, you may walk away from that first conversation wondering if the other person enjoyed your company. Thinking about how others see us is a common concern, and a phenomenon known as “meta perception.” And according to a recent study published in Psychological Science, researchers say that most people can stop worrying about whether they made a good first impression. In the study, researchers paired up people who had never met each other. The participants were given icebreaker types of questions, such as “Where are you from?” and “Do you have any hobbies?” After five minutes of conversation, each participant filled out a questionnaire about how they liked their conversation partners and how they thought their partners liked them. Results showed that participants liked their conversation partners more than they thought their partners liked them. Other studies have shown that this “liking gap” occurred whether the pairs had short or long conversations and whether the conversations took place in real-world settings or in more clinical environments. Researchers suggested that even confident people tend to be more self-critical when it comes to social interaction. The findings suggest that, when meeting people in a new setting, you probably come across more appealing and more interesting than you think.

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