“Comfort Zones” – Could introverts be depriving themselves of happiness? – Social Psychology Press Release

An example of a Psychology press release, that translates scientific concepts into a more digestible and accessible summary – in the style of Psychology Today


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“Comfort Zones” – Could introverts be depriving themselves of happiness?

Personality and Affective Forecasting: Trait Introverts Underpredict the Hedonic Benefits of Acting Extraverted

Most people enjoy parties but for introverts, the idea of large social gatherings may be daunting. The thought of getting out of their comfort zone could be enough to induce a sense of nervousness in them; an experience unfamiliar to confirmed extroverts. On the other hand, once they’ve been convinced to go out, they may (heaven forbid) enjoy themselves! Research conducted by John M. Zelenski and his team at the University of Carleton attempted to delve deeper into what goes on in the mind of introverts. How is it that they can enjoy extroverted activities, such as going to a party, whilst seemingly dreading them beforehand? It seems that introverts are just more pessimistic when it comes to predicting the outcome of social events.

Seen as common to most of the population, the traits of introversion and extroversion have been studied widely by psychologists. A number of theories as to why, on the whole, introverts avoid extroverted situations have been discounted; it seems that they don’t tend to feel more mentally taxed, unhappy in social situations or that they’re not being ‘true’ to themselves in the moment. There is another possible reason: the faulty ability of introverted people to predict the effect a situation will have on their emotions compared to extroverts. In a series of five studies, Zelensky was able to show that this last assumption has some validity and could provide strategies to help introverts enjoy themselves a bit more.

The first study directly tested how the traits would impact predictions of feelings. In a questionnaire, University students were first tested for introversion or extraversion. They were then asked to imagine acting in extroverted and introverted ways in different situations, such as attending a big party or sitting in a quiet library, and rated their level of enjoyment in each situation and whether it would cause them anxiety. As expected, introverts had more negative predictions for extraverted settings and that said they’d be more self-conscious.

The remaining four studies aimed to demonstrate the findings of the first in practice. A mixture of students were asked at random to act in either an extraverted or introverted way, apart from a control group with no instructions, in particular group tasks in the lab. Before the tasks, they were asked about how much they would enjoy them. Afterwards, they were asked to rate their actual experiences. The extraverts predicted more pleasantness for the tasks, and indeed did enjoy them. The introverts, however, were more pessimistic to begin with, but it was found that they had significantly more enjoyment from them than they had anticipated. This research demonstrates that most people do enjoy being extraverted, but that introverts find it more difficult to predict this enjoyment.

What does this mean for introverts? As a group, they tend to suffer from higher levels of depression and anxiety. This research could provide clues about helping people with this trait overcome their worries about new situations and possibly offer a whole new range of therapeutic opportunities for them.


For more information, contact John M. Zelenski at: john_zelenski@carleton.ca

To read the article: Zelenski, J., Whelan, D., Nealis, L., Besner, C., Santoro, M., & Wynn, J. (2013). Personality and affective forecasting: Trait introverts underpredict the hedonic benefits of acting extraverted. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104(6), 1092-1108.



The Story of Two Identity Crises in the Weimar Republic

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Justice Kurt Soelling


As published in the Jewish News: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-story-of-two-identity-crises-in-the-weimar-republic/ on 23rd March 2017

In 1927, Judge Gellin, of the Breslau District Court in the state of Silesia, had become drunk at a popular Breslau wine bar. Free from his self-control, the judge proceeded to embark on an unremitting, inebriated tirade. Gellin began by accusing the popular newspaper Berliner Tagelblatt of being a “vulgar Jewish paper” and then directed his anger towards a member of parliament, Deputy Herrmann, who was present at the bar. Gellin labelled Herrmann a “dirty Jew” amongst other anti-Semitic insults. A policeman was called in, and Gellin was suspended from his judgeship after a disciplinary trial in January 1929. During the short trial, it was revealed that Deputy Herrmann was not Jewish at all. According to a report in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “The democratic press made merry over the fact when it came out in the course of the proceedings that the anti-Semite in the case was by birth a Jew, while the man whom he attacked as a Jew was a non-Jew.” Judge Gellin was, in fact, born to a Jewish family.

Five years later, on the 20th of May 1932, the Chairman of the Berlin District Court, Kurt Soelling, launched a libel action against the Jewish journalist Felix Hirsch, editor of the 8 Uhr Abendblatt — a Berlin evening newspaper. A year earlier, the judge had stopped attending meetings of the German Social Democrats, in favour of Nazi party gatherings. At the meetings, he was seen giving the Nazi salute.

The libel case revolved around an article in which Hirsch had revealed that Soelling was actually born Kurt Seligsohn; the son of active members of a Silesian Jewish community, like Gellin. Also like Gellin, in adulthood Soelling had decided to convert to Protestantism. The article went on to allege that the judge had rejected his community in order to further his career and that he was a “dishonest politician”.

A day later, Soelling won the case and Hirsch was ordered to pay damages of 500 Reichsmarks, a not insubstantial sum. That wasn’t before the defence had put forward an embarrassing procession of witnesses and picked apart Soelling’s career through the lens of his personal choices. Although he successfully managed to argue that he had been baptised out of religious conviction, it emerged that he had waited for a wealthy but pious uncle to pass away before his conversion. He also defended his attendance at the Nazi meetings, and participation in the Nazi salute, by claiming that it was his duty as an office holder to keep an eye on political developments, and that it was essential that he should blend into the crowd by raising his hand when necessary. Indeed, it probably was necessary for such investigations to take place, if Soelling’s account is to be believed.

Upon the Nazi accession to power in 1933, and owing to his prominence on the Berlin legal circuit, Soelling was one of the first judges to be ordered to hand in his resignation on the grounds of his racial identity. In 1938, he was marched out of his home at gunpoint, by local thugs in the Bavarian town of Marzoll, and subsequently fled to Canada with his wife. In 1944, his sister Hedwig was transported from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz, where she lost her life.

The point of outlining these somewhat obscure but shocking, uncomfortable and ultimately tragic cases is not to chastise a couple of men who are no longer around. However, it is clear that both men exemplify, to an exaggerated extent, the internal and external conflicts of being members of a persecuted and increasingly marginalised minority community. Even more, they exemplify the magnification of those pressures during a period of national identity crisis; a problem that plagued European nations after The Great War. Although both judges profoundly rejected their communities by birth, Soelling’s case, at least, demonstrates that identity is necessarily composed of both chosen and un-chosen elements; that are independent of individual expressions of politics or life decisions. It would be unthinkable for such situations to arise in or around the Jewish community today (although some would wrongly claim that they’re rather common), but these cases provide us with a stark and important example of the extremes that might emerge when one is presented with a conflict between multiple aspects of identity, in the midst of cultural uncertainty and upheaval.

The Sharing Economy

People are increasingly trusting each other in the sharing economy – here’s why.

The Increasing Trust in Online Platforms

The tech-giant Google has recently discovered the importance of trust in the modern online marketplace; and it’s discovered it the hard way. As businesses, and even governments, pull away from their online advertising platform over the undesired placement of ads around controversial websites, the necessity of trust-based online relationships has never been more apparent. Given the need for trustworthy transactions, it’s no wonder that we’re increasingly turning to platforms that foster and facilitate ‘trust’ between individuals contributing to the booming sharing economy.

In the UK, which has seen incredible innovation over the past few years, the sharing economy has grown from £2.1bn in transactions in 2013 to £7.4bn in 2015. This means people are increasingly feeling able to connect with others and put their trust in other individuals. Why are people turning to Airbnb and their counterparts in other sectors, such as the online rental platform Fat Lama?  the growth in the market reflects a change in attitudes towards communication and the ability of these firms to smooth out the relationships involved.

People are closer now than ever before.  People are used to communicating with each other at a global level, and instantaneously at that. This taps into one of the major components of a sharing relationship; that is, a general feeling of closeness to those around us. Whether we’re ranting in the comments section of a national newspaper, or sharing our thoughts on Facebook and Twitter, never before have we been so familiar with each other. These online communities have opened us up to the possibility of trusting one-another and feeling able to share not only our thoughts, but increasingly access to our homes and possessions.

This personal connection has also been facilitated and enhanced by the sharing platforms we use. With Airbnb, we feel sufficiently connected to the world to allow others to temporarily use our homes. With Fat Lama, the same feeling of connection allows us to trust someone with, say, our camera or even our drone for a period of time. What both services have in common is that they provide a safety net that would not be there in a merely personal exchange. So, our willingness to trust in online communities comes with a very real guarantee. If co-operation is increasingly becoming an option, and if trust is an essential component of that, then online platforms have played a major role in encouraging us to share. That can only be a good thing.

Communal Memory

As published in the Jewish News: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/communal-memory-and-where-we-are-now/  on 13th December 2016

When members of a community pass on, the memories they have shared and left behind take on a life of their own. We remember the happy moments, their habits, their ways of being. We remember the good and the bad. They leave behind oral histories and physical objects that act as evidence of life in a difference world. And ultimately, elements of their past are assimilated into our collective wisdom; lessons to be learned and profound truths to be examined and re-examined. The Jewish community is no different in this regard, and I believe the experiences of our predecessors are invaluable cultural tools.

Last year, I was helping my dad clear out his parents’ house; a chore that he had left undone for nearly 20 years. Looking through the garage, I came across several boxes. Mainly containing a variety of books my grandparents, Fritz and Lilli, had brought over in 1930s, having made the journey as refugees from Berlin. By the luck of history (the garage was damp and unattended to) I discovered an extraordinary cache of letters sent from my grandpa to my grandma during the summer of 1938. My grandma never spoke about her experiences, but I believe she kept these mementoes in the hope they would speak for her.

According to the letters, sent every other day for a month, my grandpa had made the journey from Berlin to New York in late July 1938, in order to look for an opportunity to resettle, undoubtedly a luxury and rare opportunity at the time. They mostly outline his meetings with other German Jewish friends and contacts. But there is a more personal side. As the month goes on and his efforts begin to look increasingly fruitless, his sense of sadness and desperation becomes clear.

His unsuccessful fact-finding trip had reinforced in his mind that the family needed to leave immediately. I was then struck by his letter dated the 20th of August 1938. In a parenthesised side-note he asked my grandma: Hast Du diese Verordnung schon gelesen, nach der wir jetzt Israel und Sarah heissen? Or,“Have you read the regulation, after which we are now called Israel and Sarah? [referring to a law passed on the 17th of August 1938, requiring Jews to use identifiably Jewish names].” For me, this side-note was the most personally profound part of the letters. My grandparents were Germans, they had always considered themselves German, but this letter captures the moment, in the mind of Fritz, that the sentiment was called into question. According to the law of their homeland, the essence of their being was now Jud. They eventually found a safe haven later that year in London, retaining their German identity and love for Germany out of pure defiance.

So where does this lead us now? Well, as the people with first-hand experiences of this period are becoming fewer and fewer, it is now up to us to finally consolidate their assorted memories into our communal culture. Of course, we should remember and document their stories, but culture is more than that. It informs the way we think, and the way we act. It informs how we interact between ourselves, and with others. 2016 has been a year of crisis, and we are now entering 2017. Not only are there millions of people fleeing their homes across the world, but the discourse in our own nations is turning sour. Our politicians are starting to hint at an essence of identity, “You cannot be a citizen of the world,” and subtly questioning the loyalty of certain British citizens and those who have recently arrived.

In the UK, Prime Minister Theresa May and Home Secretary Amber Rudd have just unveiled new legislation regarding anti-Semitism. Yet both are on record as using rhetoric and forming policy intended to ‘essentialise’ communities, and not just in relation to immigration levels. In that case, what about anti-Semitism do they actually oppose? These views are often informed by superficial polling of these communities, often reduced to mere data cleavages, as well as unscrupulous and selective focuses generated by certain sections of the media; sections, by the way, that labelled Ralph Miliband an “enemy of the people”. Although the situation for our community now is very different, if we are to take the lessons of our families seriously, we can’t just look at protecting our own communities, but must engage with and stand by all communities subject to prejudiced essentialism.1-yc7il1nmvxbnldsfcderta

Example Sales Material

Choosing the right watch can be difficult, especially for a seasoned traveller looking for a timepiece to accompany you on your adventures. Here is your choice made easier!

Disclaimer: I am not associated in any way with Suunto, this is merely a writing exercise.

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