Study: Competitive People Have Higher Risk for Using Drugs

A new study from Spain suggests hostile and competitive people are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.

“There are still many questions to answer but what we discovered is very significant,” points out Dr. Rosario Ruiz Olivares, head researcher at the University of Cordoba (Spain). Nevertheless, Olivares said that what could be called an addictive personality “does not exist.”

However, the study does confirm that there is a very strong correlation between a personality characterized by hostility and competitiveness and consumption of illegal substances, such as cocaine, cannabis and hallucinogens.

Investigators believe that people who are patient, less hostile, and not competitive have a much lower likelihood of being drug users. “This kind of personality is a protective factor for drug consumption and is especially meaningful in the case of alcohol and tobacco,” Olivares said.

In the study, socio-demographic and personality questionnaires were completed by 3,816 young people in the province of Cordoba between the ages of 18 and 29. “In the future, we would like to broaden the sample to a national level and study behavior patterns according to the person’s gender,” states Rosario Ruiz.

These results represent an important step in the field of preventing drug consumption among young people, since it could focus specifically on people who demonstrate hostile and competitive traits.

Furthermore, it will not only help in prevention, but may also help clinicians given that individuals who have these characteristics can find it more difficult to overcome their addiction. Early detection of substance abuse can lead to specific psychological therapy designed to work on the personality traits that influence drug abuse.

Source: University of Cordoba

Study: Only Children Not More Narcissistic Than Those With Siblings

New research finds no evidence for the claim that only children are more narcissistic than children with siblings.

German social and personality psychologists Drs. Michael Dufner (University of Leipzig), Mitja D. Back (University of Münster), Franz F. Oehme (University of Leipzig), and Stefan C. Schmukle (University of Leipzig) recently published their findings in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

The researchers began their study by asking people if they believed people who have no siblings are more narcissistic than people with siblings.

Then, Dufner and colleagues focused on two core aspects of narcissism: people feeling grandiose about themselves more and people being more rivalrous.

Researchers then analyzed data from a large panel study of over 1,800 people, and found the scores of narcissistic traits for only children were not that different from people with siblings. Even controlling for possible socioeconomic factors, these results held true.

“Some of the past research has reported no difference between only children and non-only children in terms of narcissism and some of the past research has reported such a difference,” said Dufner.

Due to the nature of their sampling and research methods, “we can now say with rather high confidence that only children are not substantially more narcissistic than people with siblings.”

Narcissism is considered a socially maladaptive personality trait, so lumping only children as being narcissistic can put them at a disadvantage from their peers, the researchers noted.

“When sociologists, economists, or policy makers discuss the downsides of low fertility rates, they should let go of the idea that growing up without siblings leads to increased narcissism,” Dufner and colleagues wrote.

“There might of course be economic or societal costs associated with low birth rates, but increasing narcissism in the upcoming generation does not seem to be a factor that is relevant to the discussion,” Dufner said.

Source: Society for Personality and Social Psychology

Early Career Failure Can Breed More Long-Term Success If You Don’t Give Up

A new study has established a link between early career failure and future success, essentially confirming German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s adage that “what does not kill me makes me stronger.”

A research team from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management analyzed the relationship between professional failure and success for young scientists. They discovered, in contrast to their initial expectations, that failure early in one’s career leads to greater success in the long term for those who try again.

“The attrition rate does increase for those who fail early in their careers,” lead author Yang Wang said. “But those who stick it out, on average, perform much better in the long term, suggesting that if it doesn’t kill you, it really does make you stronger.”

The findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, provide a counter-narrative to the Matthew Effect, which posits a “rich get richer” theory that success begets more success.

“It turns out that, historically, while we have been relatively successful in pinpointing the benefits of success, we have failed to understand the impact of failure,” said Dr. Dashun Wang, corresponding author and associate professor of management and organizations at Kellogg.

For the study, the team analyzed the records of scientists who, early in their careers, applied for R01 grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) between 1990 and 2005. They utilized the NIH’s evaluation scores to separate individuals into two groups: (1) the “near-misses” whose scores were just below the threshold that received funding and (2) the “just-made-its” whose scores were just above that threshold.

The researchers then looked at how many papers each group published, on average, over the next 10 years and how many of those papers turned out to be hits, as determined by the number of citations those papers received.

They discovered that the scientists in the near-miss group received less funding, but published just as many papers, and more hit papers, than those in the just-made-it group.

In fact, individuals in the near-miss funding group were 6.1% more likely to publish a hit paper over the next 10 years compared to scientists in the just-made-it group.

“The fact that the near-miss group published more hit papers than the just-made-it group is even more surprising when you consider that the just-made-it group received money to further their work, while the near-miss group did not,” said Dr. Benjamin Jones, study co-author and the Gordon and Llura Gund Family Professor of Entrepreneurship at Kellogg.

The researchers considered whether the effect could be attributed to a “weed-out” phenomenon; that the early-career failure caused some scientists in the near-miss group to exit the field, leaving only the most-determined members.

Further analysis revealed that while the attrition rate after failure was 10 percent higher for the near-miss group, that alone could not account for the greater success later in their careers.

After looking at a number of other possible explanations for the long-term success of the near-miss group, the team could not find any supporting evidence for any of their hypotheses, suggesting other unobservable factors, such as grit or lessons learned, might be at play.

Finally, the findings do not contradict the Matthew Effect, but rather suggest a complementary path for those who fail.

“There is value in failure,” Wang said. “We have just begun expanding this research into a broader domain and are seeing promising signals of similar effects in other fields.”

Source: Northwestern University

Anxious People May Strategically Choose Worrying Over Relaxing

People who struggle with anxiety may purposefully resist relaxation and continue worrying to avoid a large spike in anxiety if something bad does happen, according to a new study by Penn State researchers.

The findings, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, show that people who were more sensitive to shifts in negative emotion — quickly moving from a relaxed state to one of fear, for example — were more likely to feel anxious while being led through relaxation exercises.

The results could help benefit people who experience “relaxation-induced anxiety,” a condition that occurs when people actually become more anxious during relaxation training.

“People may be staying anxious to prevent a large shift in anxiety, but it’s actually healthier to let yourself experience those shifts,” said Dr. Michelle Newman, a professor of psychology and senior author. “The more you do it, the more you realize you can do it and it’s better to allow yourself to be relaxed at times. Mindfulness training and other interventions can help people let go and live in the moment.”

First author Hanjoo Kim, a graduate student in psychology, said the study also sheds light on why relaxation treatments designed to help people feel better can potentially cause more anxiety.

“People who are more vulnerable to relaxation-induced anxiety are often the ones with anxiety disorders who may need relaxation more than others,” Kim said.

“And of course, these relaxation techniques were meant to help, not make someone more anxious. Our findings will hopefully serve as a cornerstone for providing better care for these populations.”

Newman said that while researchers have known about relaxation-induced anxiety since the 1980s, the specific cause of this phenomenon has been unclear. When Newman developed the contrast avoidance theory in 2011, she thought the two concepts might be linked.

“The theory revolves around the idea that people may make themselves anxious intentionally as a way to avoid the letdown they might get if something bad were to happen,” Newman said.

“This isn’t actually helpful and just makes you more miserable. But, because most of the things we worry about don’t end up happening, what’s reinforced in the brain is, ‘I worried and it didn’t happen so I should continue worrying.’”

The study involved 96 college students: 32 people with generalized anxiety disorder, 34 people with major depressive disorder and 30 controls with neither disorder.

In the lab, the study participants were guided through relaxation exercises before watching videos designed to elicit fear or sadness. The participants then answered a list of questions designed to measure how sensitive they were to changes in their emotional state.

For example, some people may be uncomfortable with the negative emotions incited by the videos right after relaxing, while others might find the relaxation session helpful in dealing with those emotions.

Next, the students participated in another guided relaxation session before filling out a second survey designed to measure their anxiety during the second relaxation session.

The results show that people with generalized anxiety disorder were more likely to be sensitive to sharp spikes in emotion, like going from feeling relaxed to feeling scared or stressed. Additionally, this sensitivity was linked to feeling anxious during sessions intended to induce relaxation.

The researchers found similar results in those with major depressive disorder, although the effect wasn’t as strong.

Kim said he hopes the study can help clinicians provide better care for people with anxiety.

“Measuring relaxation-induced anxiety and implementing exposure techniques targeting the desensitization of negative contrast sensitivity may help patients reduce this anxiety,” Kim said. “Also, it would be important to examine relaxation-induced anxiety in other disorders, such as panic disorder and persistent mild depression.”

Source: Penn State


Around The World, Kindness Tops Qualities Sought In A Mate

A new UK study finds one of the top qualities we look for in a long-term partner is kindness. Researchers from Swansea University queried over 2,700 college students from across the globe to select the characteristics they would want in an ideal lifelong partner.

Investigators used a novel study method that entailed providing students with a “fixed” budget by which they could “buy” characteristics of an ideal mate. While traits like physical attractiveness and financial prospects were important, the one that was given the highest priority was kindness.

Study findings appears in the Journal of Personality.

The study compared the dating preferences of students from Eastern countries, for example Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong, and Western countries such as the UK, Norway and Australia.

Students were given eight attributes they could spend “mate dollars” on: physical attractiveness, good financial prospects, kindness, humor, chastity, religiosity, the desire for children, and creativity.

While there were some differences in behavior between Eastern and Western students, there were also some remarkable similarities.

People typically spent 22-26 percent of their total budget on kindness, and large parts of their budget on physical attractiveness and good financial prospects, while traits like creativity and chastity received less than 10 percent.

The research team also found some interesting sex differences; both Eastern and Western men allocated more of their budget to physical attractiveness than women (22% vs 16%) while women allocated more to good financial prospects than men (18% vs 12%).

The principal investigator, Dr. Andrew G. Thomas, believes studying mate preferences across cultures is important for understanding human behavior.

“Looking at very different culture groups allows us to test the idea that some behaviors are human universals.

“If men and women act in a similar way across the globe, then this adds weight to the idea that some behaviors develop in spite of culture rather than because of it.”

The results also showed a difference in a partner’s desire for children, which was a priority only for Western women.

“We think this may have something to do with family planning,” said Thomas. “In cultures where contraception is widespread, a partner’s desire for children may predict the likelihood of starting a family.

“In contrast, in cultures where contraception use is less widespread, having children may be a natural consequence of sex within a relationship, making actual desire for children less relevant.”

Source: Swansea University/EurekAlert

Do Optimists Live Longer?

A new study has discovered that individuals with greater optimism are more likely to live longer and to achieve “exceptional longevity,” living to age 85 or older.

The study was based on 69,744 women and 1,429 men. Both groups completed survey measures to assess their level of optimism, as well as their overall health and health habits such as diet, smoking, and alcohol use, according to researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), National Center for PTSD at VA Boston Healthcare System, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Women were followed for 10 years, while the men were followed for 30 years, the researchers reported.

When individuals were compared based on their initial levels of optimism, the researchers found that the most optimistic men and women demonstrated, on average, an 11 to 15 percent longer lifespan, and had 50 to 70 percent greater odds of reaching 85 years old compared to the least optimistic groups.

The results were maintained after accounting for age, demographic factors, such as educational attainment, chronic diseases, depression and also health behaviors, such as alcohol use, exercise, diet, and primary care visits.

“While research has identified many risk factors for diseases and premature death, we know relatively less about positive psychosocial factors that can promote healthy aging,” said corresponding author Lewina Lee, PhD, a clinical research psychologist at the National Center for PTSD at VA Boston and assistant professor of psychiatry at BUSM.

“This study has strong public health relevance because it suggests that optimism is one such psychosocial asset that has the potential to extend the human lifespan. Interestingly, optimism may be modifiable using relatively simple techniques or therapies.”

It is unclear how optimism helps people attain longer life, the researchers note.

“Other research suggests that more optimistic people may be able to regulate emotions and behavior, as well as bounce back from stressors and difficulties, more effectively,” said senior author Laura Kubzansky, Ph.D., M.P.H., Lee Kum Kee Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences and co-director, Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness at the Chan school.

The researchers also consider that more optimistic people tend to have healthier habits, such as being more likely to engage in more exercise and less likely to smoke, which could extend lifespan.

“Research on the reason why optimism matters so much remains to be done, but the link between optimism and health is becoming more evident,” said senior author Fran Grodstein, Sc.D., a professor of epidemiology at the Chan school and professor of medicine at the Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Source: Boston University School of Medicine