Tag Archives: University of Tennessee Knoxville

University of Tennessee Knoxville: Psychologists find smiling really can make people happier

14 Apr

Here’s today’s COMMENT FROM AN OLD BLACK FART. A prof at Vanderbilt University conducted a study to find out if hanging around high status folk makes one happy. Both China and the U.S. were studied and here is what the prof concluded:

Song found that in urban China, knowing high-status people was detrimental to mental health. This was true whether people knew mostly high-status people, any high-status people or even just many people of comparatively higher-status than themselves. This was surprising because China, being a collectivist society, places high value on interdependence, making a strong case for social capital theory. Song says these findings indicate that comparative reference group theory predominates in urban China, because while collectivist societies are more oriented toward interdependence, they also promote negative self-comparisons to people of higher status….
In the United States, the findings were even more interesting. Here, knowing high-status people or comparatively higher-status people than themselves was also detrimental to mental health, consistent with comparative reference group theory — we tend to feel worse except when most of a person’s network was clustered at one end of the status range. When, on average, members of an individual’s network had high-status jobs, depression rates were lower, and when many members of individuals’ networks had lower-status jobs than themselves, depression was higher, consistent with social capital theory….

Journal Reference:
Lijun Song. Does who you know in the positional hierarchy protect or hurt? Social capital, comparative reference group, and depression in two societies. Social Science & Medicine, 2015; 136-137: 117 DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.05.012

Preliminary research from the University of Tennessee Knoxville found that smiling is a clue to emotional state.

Science Daily reported in Psychologists find smiling really can make people happier:

Smiling really can make people feel happier, according to a new paper published in Psychological Bulletin.
Coauthored by researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and Texas A&M, the paper looked at nearly 50 years of data testing whether facial expressions can lead people to feel the emotions related to those expressions.
“Conventional wisdom tells us that we can feel a little happier if we simply smile. Or that we can get ourselves in a more serious mood if we scowl,” said Nicholas Coles, UT PhD student in social psychology and lead researcher on the paper. “But psychologists have actually disagreed about this idea for over 100 years.”
These disagreements became more pronounced in 2016, when 17 teams of researchers failed to replicate a well-known experiment demonstrating that the physical act of smiling can make people feel happier.
“Some studies have not found evidence that facial expressions can influence emotional feelings,” Coles said. “But we can’t focus on the results of any one study. Psychologists have been testing this idea since the early 1970s, so we wanted to look at all the evidence.”
Using a statistical technique called meta-analysis, Coles and his team combined data from 138 studies testing more than 11,000 participants from all around the world. According to the results of the meta-analysis, facial expressions have a small impact on feelings. For example, smiling makes people feel happier, scowling makes them feel angrier, and frowning makes them feel sadder.
“We don’t think that people can smile their way to happiness,” Coles said. “But these findings are exciting because they provide a clue about how the mind and the body interact to shape our conscious experience of emotion. We still have a lot to learn about these facial feedback effects, but this meta-analysis put us a little closer to understanding how emotions work.” https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190412094728.htm

Citation:

Psychologists find smiling really can make people happier
Date: April 12, 2019
Source: University of Tennessee at Knoxville
Summary:
Smiling really can make people feel happier, according to a new article. A team of psychologists combined data from 138 studies testing more than 11,000 participants and found that facial expressions have a small impact on our feelings.
Journal Reference:
Nicholas A. Coles, Jeff T. Larsen, Heather C. Lench. A meta-analysis of the facial feedback literature: Effects of facial feedback on emotional experience are small and variable.. Psychological Bulletin, 2019; DOI: 10.1037/bul0000194

Here is the press release from the University of Tennessee:

PUBLIC RELEASE: 11-APR-2019
Psychologists find smiling really can make people happier
Audio interviews available
UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE AT KNOXVILLE
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Smiling really can make people feel happier, according to a new paper published in Psychological Bulletin.
Coauthored by researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and Texas A&M, the paper looked at nearly 50 years of data testing whether facial expressions can lead people to feel the emotions related to those expressions.
“Conventional wisdom tells us that we can feel a little happier if we simply smile. Or that we can get ourselves in a more serious mood if we scowl,” said Nicholas Coles, UT PhD student in social psychology and lead researcher on the paper. “But psychologists have actually disagreed about this idea for over 100 years.”
These disagreements became more pronounced in 2016, when 17 teams of researchers failed to replicate a well-known experiment demonstrating that the physical act of smiling can make people feel happier.
“Some studies have not found evidence that facial expressions can influence emotional feelings,” Coles said. “But we can’t focus on the results of any one study. Psychologists have been testing this idea since the early 1970s, so we wanted to look at all the evidence.”
Using a statistical technique called meta-analysis, Coles and his team combined data from 138 studies testing more than 11,000 participants from all around the world. According to the results of the meta-analysis, facial expressions have a small impact on feelings. For example, smiling makes people feel happier, scowling makes them feel angrier, and frowning makes them feel sadder.
“We don’t think that people can smile their way to happiness,” Coles said. “But these findings are exciting because they provide a clue about how the mind and the body interact to shape our conscious experience of emotion. We still have a lot to learn about these facial feedback effects, but this meta-analysis put us a little closer to understanding how emotions work.”
###
The study, “A Meta-Analysis of the Facial Feedback Literature: Effects of Facial Feedback on Emotional Experience Are Small and Variable,” is co-authored by Jeff Larsen, professor of psychology at UT, and Heather Lench of Texas A&M University. The research is supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship awarded to Coles.
CONTACT:
Brian Canever (865-974-0937, bcanever@utk.edu)
Andrea Schneibel (865-974-3993, andrea.schneibel@utk.edu)
Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.

One of the best lists of what makes folk happy comes from Thomson’s 10 Characteristics of a Happy Person:

And the results are these ten characteristics that make a happy person.
1.Happy people always have happy friends. Remember the old proverb, birds of a feather flock together. Those having a positive and happy outlook to life understand and prefer the company of others with the same outlook to life.
2. Happy people usually know how to speak for themselves about what they feel and if they are not treated well. In addition to this, happy people tend to lead a life of integrity, are honest and sincere with others and themselves and always live according to their values.
3. Happy people love, and enjoy listening to music. Remember that music always makes the world go round, especially for happy people.
4. Happy people appreciate what they have and recognize the blessings that come their way. They know how to show appreciation and gratitude constantly.
5. As happy people receive and share lots of love, compassion and affection, they enjoy life better. And in the process, find that they can sleep better.
6. Happy people not only know how to eat well, they also know how to feed their body with great quality food. In addition to this, they also follow a regular exercise routine. This is because they believe in self care and work at reaching the epitome of mental and physical strength.
7. Happy people are both patient with people and things around them, and excitedly look forward to life everyday. They are always ready and welcome the adventures life offers them.
8. Happy people look for the best in themselves and in people around them as they are naturally optimistic. They know how to alter negative positions into positive ones.
9. Happy people know their purpose in life and live to their passions. It is because of this that they are always learning new things, and are open to new and fresh ideas.
10. Happy people are always ready to forgive themselves, and don’t beat themselves up for unavoidable mistakes. Being spiritual, they believe in the power of praying, and consider everything is possible and attainable through constant prayer…. http://www.growyourselves.com/10-characteristics-of-a-happy-person.html

Happy folk come in all flavors and any social status. It doesn’t matter the job title or social group.

If you want to be happy, be.
Leo Tolstoy

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University of Tennessee Knoxville study: Does being bilingual make children more focused? Study says no

20 Jan

Francois Grosjean Ph.D. wrote in the Psychology Today article, Who is Bilingual? How one describes bilinguals has changed over time.

This other way of looking at bilinguals allows one to include people ranging from the professional interpreter who is fluent in two languages all the way to the established immigrant who speaks the host country’s language but who may not be able to read or write it. In between we find the bilingual child who interacts with her parents in one language and with her friends in another, the scientist who reads and writes articles in a second language (but who rarely speaks it), the member of a linguistic minority who uses the minority language at home only and the majority language in all other domains of life, the Deaf person who uses sign language with her friends but uses the written form of the spoken language with a hearing person, and so on. Despite the great diversity that exists between these people, they all lead their lives with more than one language.
The more recent and more realistic view of bilingualism has allowed many people who live with two or more languages to accept who they are – bilingual, quite simply. (See here for some feedback on what it is like to be bilingual)…. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/life-bilingual/201010/who-is-bilingual

Many argue the advantages of being bilingual.

Maria Konnikova wrote in the New Yorker article, Is Bilingualism Really an Advantage?

So does that mean that there’s no such thing as a bilingual advantage? No. It’s just one study. But it adds further evidence to the argument that the bilingual advantage is sometimes overstated. “I’m definitely not saying there’s no bilingual advantage,” de Bruin says. But the advantage may be different from the way many researchers have described it: as a phenomenon that helps children to develop their ability to switch between tasks and, more broadly, enhances their executive-control functions. The true edge, de Bruin believes, may come far later, and in a form that has little to do with task-switching and executive control; it may, she says, be the result of simple learning…. https://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/bilingual-advantage-aging-brain

A University of Tennessee Knoxville study examined one aspect of being bilingual.

Science Daily reported in Does being bilingual make children more focused? Study says no:

Bilingual children do not have more advantages than monolingual children when it comes to executive function, which includes remembering instructions, controlling responses, and shifting swiftly between tasks, according to a new study published in PLOS One.
The study, “No evidence for effects of Turkish immigrant children’s bilingualism on executive functions,” was coauthored by two UT faculty members: Nils Jaekel, clinical assistant professor of theory and practice in teacher education, and Julia Jaekel, associate professor of child and family studies, together with Jessica Willard and Birgit Leyendecker, researchers from the Ruhr-University in Bochum, Germany….
For their research, the scientists used a computer test to compare the executive function of two groups of children between the ages of five and 15 living in the German Ruhr region. The first group consisted of 242 children who spoke both Turkish and German, and the other group consisted of 95 children who spoke only German.
The test measured the time bilingual and monolingual children took to correctly respond to computer-based problems and stimuli. The results showed no difference in the executive functions of the two groups.
The researchers also considered children’s German and Turkish vocabulary size and exposure to both languages, factors for which previous studies on the topic had been criticized for lacking.
Does this mean there’s no value in speaking more than one language? Not exactly, said Nils Jaekel: “Although bilingual children are not necessarily more focused than monolingual children, speaking another language can provide other social opportunities along the way. However, it is important to continue the research on this topic so parents, educators, and policymakers do not overpromise on the benefits of speaking a second language.” https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190118123014.htm

Citation:

Does being bilingual make children more focused? Study says n
Date: January 18, 2019
Source: University of Tennessee at Knoxville
Summary:
Bilingual children do not have more advantages than monolingual children when it comes to executive function, which includes remembering instructions, controlling responses, and shifting swiftly between tasks.
Journal Reference:
Nils Jaekel, Julia Jaekel, Jessica Willard, Birgit Leyendecker. No evidence for effects of Turkish immigrant children‘s bilingualism on executive functions. PLOS ONE, 2019; 14 (1): e0209981 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0209981

Here is the press release from University of Tennessee Knoxville:

PUBLIC RELEASE: 18-JAN-2019
Does being bilingual make children more focused? Study says no

Bilingual children do not have more advantages than monolingual children when it comes to executive function, which includes remembering instructions, controlling responses, and shifting swiftly between tasks, according to a new study published in PLOS ONE.
The study, “No evidence for effects of Turkish immigrant children’s bilingualism on executive functions,” was coauthored by two UT faculty members: Nils Jaekel, clinical assistant professor of theory and practice in teacher education, and Julia Jaekel, associate professor of child and family studies, together with Jessica Willard and Birgit Leyendecker, researchers from the Ruhr-University in Bochum, Germany.
“The research of executive functions is important because they have direct application to success in both real-life and academic situations,” said Julia Jaekel.
For their research, the scientists used a computer test to compare the executive function of two groups of children between the ages of five and 15 living in the German Ruhr region. The first group consisted of 242 children who spoke both Turkish and German, and the other group consisted of 95 children who spoke only German.
The test measured the time bilingual and monolingual children took to correctly respond to computer-based problems and stimuli. The results showed no difference in the executive functions of the two groups.
The researchers also considered children’s German and Turkish vocabulary size and exposure to both languages, factors for which previous studies on the topic had been criticized for lacking.
Does this mean there’s no value in speaking more than one language? Not exactly, said Nils Jaekel: “Although bilingual children are not necessarily more focused than monolingual children, speaking another language can provide other social opportunities along the way. However, it is important to continue the research on this topic so parents, educators, and policymakers do not overpromise on the benefits of speaking a second language.”
###
CONTACT:
Brian Canever
865-974-0937
bcanever@utk.edu
Jules Morris
865-719-7072
julesmo@utk.edu
Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.

The issue of official language is often addressed in the context of national cohesion.

Brandon Brice wrote in Why English should be the official language of the United States:

The United States, contrary to popular belief, has no official language. Federal legislators have proposed laws to make English the official business language of the United States, and every year that legislation dies….
Making English the official language would encourage new migrants to learn the language of the country they have adopted as theirs. The end goal is to unite the American people, while improving the lives of immigrants and native-born inhabitants.
There would be savings; official English would save billions in federal spending. The direct cost of translators and bilingual education alone are billions, and many of these costs are born by local governments. In Los Angeles in 2002, $15 million, or 15 percent of the election budget, was devoted to printing ballots in seven languages and hiring bilingual poll workers. Los Angeles county hires over 400 full-time court interpreters at a cost of $265 per day. In 2000, President Bill Clinton signed into law Executive Order 13166, which forces health care providers who accept Medicare and Medicaid payments to hire interpreters for any patient who requires one, at the providers’ own expense.
The indirect costs of accidents and lost productivity caused by the millions of people who don’t speak English are billions more….
https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/dec/31/why-english-should-be-official-language-united-sta/

Noemi Nagy asks an interesting question in Language Diversity as a Source of Conflict in Hungary—Possible Implications of Immigration.

Nagy described the language conflict:

Hungary has been a multinational and multilingual state for a thousand years, therefore had to implement policies and legislation on its minorities and linguistic diversity. After the democratic transition in 1989/90, the country’s new legislation on the protection of minorities became generally praised as standard setting in Europe. In 2011 a new Constitution and a new law on minorities were adopted, one of the major ‘innovations’ being Hungarian declared as the official language of the State. The aim of the paper is to present and critically evaluate the legislation and policies on language use and minority protection in Hungary in the democratic era, with special focus on the reverberations of today’s immigration boom in Europe, and the Hungarian government’s reactions to that. The paper opens questions such as: Is Hungary’s legal arrangement is appropriate to accommodate current needs of language minorities including new minorities, i.e. migrants? What are the possible implications of influx of immigrants into Hungary in terms of language policy? Will language resurface as a source of conflict as a new layout of multilingualism is taking shape in Europe? https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-77231-8_5

Something to ponder.

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