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Your World is Full of Placebo Buttons (and That’s a Good Thing)

All products and services, everything we buy and use, have but one job—to modulate our mood. The fundamental reason we use technology of all sorts, from stone tools to the latest iPhone, is to make us feel better. To prove the point, consider how perception of relief is tantamount to actual relief. Consider the so-called placebo button.

Take, for example, the lowly crosswalk button. When we find ourselves at an intersection, waiting for a light to change, we tap the button, sometimes more than once. Most people believe these buttons are connected to some master control box that will signal the light to change so we can cross the street. In truth, these buttons often do nothing.

The crosswalk button is a relic of the age before computer-controlled traffic signals. In New York City, for instance, “the city deactivated most of the pedestrian buttons long ago,” a New York Times article reported in 2004. Of the 3,250 walk buttons in the city at the time, some 2,500 were not functional. And yet, the Times noted, when faced with the buttons, “an unwitting public continued to push.”

Then there are elevator buttons. Have you ever noticed someone pushing the call button on an elevator when it’s already lit? I must admit I’ve done it myself. Particularly when I’m in a rush, I want to make sure the button has been pressed correctly—as if there were a way to press it incorrectly. It’s a wholly irrational response, yet in the moment, I can’t help myself. When I push the button, I feel better.

Why? Because discomfort is often alleviated by action—by our doing something that makes us feel in control, even if, in reality, we have no control whatsoever.

Once inside the elevator, you may notice a hurried passenger pressing the close door button repeatedly, in hopes of speeding things along. But the button is another example of what’s known as a “mechanical placebo.” According to a 2008 article in the New Yorker, the close door buttons included in most elevators since the 1990s do not actually work the way passengers think. The buttons are installed for emergency personnel, not for the general public. Firefighters use the buttons to open and close doors between flights, but they can do so only with a key or other special instructions.

So why do we keep pushing the darned buttons? Of course, not all the buttons we encounter in our daily life are nonfunctional all the time. But how are we to know the difference? The crosswalk eventually flashes WALK, and the elevator door eventually closes. But rarely do we question whether a causal relationship exists.

In an essay on this topic in 2010, the author David McRaney observed: “If you happen to find yourself pressing a nonfunctional close-door button, and later the doors close, you’ll probably never notice because a little spurt of happiness will cascade through your brain once you see what you believe is a response to your action. Your behavior was just reinforced. You will keep pushing the button in the future.”

push-button

Other controls are put in place for explicitly psychological reasons. If you work in an office building, there is a good chance your attempts to regulate the temperature in your office are just as futile as pushing a crosswalk button. With the advent of building-wide control systems, individual office thermostats often do little more than decorate the walls.

Giving workers the ability to regulate their own climates is expensive and often incites temperature wars, in which employees continually adjust the thermostat, wasting energy and inflaming tempers. However, building managers and air-conditioning specialists have found ways to placate workers. Greg Perakes, a climate control professional in Tennessee, told an industry publication, “We had an employee that always complained of being hot.” Instead of giving the woman her own air-conditioning setup, Perakes decided to give her something else: the illusion of control.

Perakes provided the worker with a dummy thermostat connected to a small air pump. The pump drew air from the main climate control system through a rubber tube. Though the system did not actually change the temperature of her office, the pump made just enough noise for the employee to hear. “When she heard the hissing air coming … she felt in control. We never heard another word about the situation from her again. Case solved.”

Perakes is not alone in this slightly shady practice. A 2003 web survey appearing in the industry publication Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration News revealed that 72 percent of industry professionals admitted to installing dummy thermostats. Many climate control veterans subscribed to the words of HVAC engineer Joe Olivieri, quoted as saying “Thermal comfort is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical.”

By connecting the actions we take with what appears to be a result, we form associations between behavior and outcome, even if there is no relationship between the two. We feel stress, we push a button, we experience some relief; something occurs after we push the button, and even if there’s no way to know whether it’s a direct response to our actions, we continue to feel relief.

Though it’s easy to feel deceived when confronted with a reality that challenges our perceptions, the technology doesn’t actually lie to us—after all, these buttons are inanimate objects. More accurate would be to say that the technology helps us comfort ourselves. And the number of products that enable this self-comfort is far greater than you probably realize.

Much of the technology we fiddle with daily—our phones, our games, our apps—we use not only because of what they do, but because of how they make us feel. By giving us a sense of control, products can alter our mood and provide relief—even when it’s all in our heads.

Nir’s Note: The New York Times published a piece on a similar topic today. I’ve been working on this post (in spurts) for years. Seeing their post pushed me to stop delaying and finally hit publish on this essay. I hope you enjoyed it. If you did, please share it.


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The Power of Rituals

WADE BOGGS, THE Hall of Fame third baseman for the Boston Red Sox, was famous for his pregame rituals. Before each outing, he ate chicken, took batting practice at 5:17 p.m., did wind sprints at 7:17 p.m., and fielded 150 ground balls. He also wrote the Hebrew word for life (“chai”) in the dirt before going up to bat. Did these superstitions do any good?

Some new research suggests they might have, and that anyone — from Olympic athletes to office workers — can benefit from the same kinds of routines. So, how does one go about testing the power of superstition? Obviously, part of the answer includes the 1970s rock band Journey, sodium chloride, and crumpled up pieces of paper. But more on that later.

The research, conducted by Harvard Business School professor Alison Wood Brooks and several collaborators, grew out of research Brooks had been doing on anxiety. Most people feel anxious several times a day, but there are few reliable ways of calming down. Feeling anxiety well before facing a challenge can motivate preparation, but, during a task, it can eat up mental resources.

Meanwhile, Brooks says, “We had been doing some other work about rituals and how they’re fascinating and strange and pervasive, and we thought, ‘You know what, people use rituals to try to relax, and I wonder if they actually work.’ ” Some existing evidence had shown that pre-performance routines can help, such as bouncing a basketball a certain way before taking a free-throw shot. But the findings were inconsistent, and if routines did work, it wasn’t clear whether they merely prepared motor action or had some higher meaning for athletes.

The researchers first explored how people use rituals in their everyday lives. They asked 400 online subjects if they’d used a ritual before the last difficult task they’d felt anxious about, and to describe it or another ritual they’d performed in the past. The researchers left “ritual” undefined for the subject, but in their paper, forthcoming in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, they define it as “a predefined sequence of symbolic actions often characterized by formality and repetition that lacks direct instrumental purpose.” They contrast rituals with habits and routines, which have no symbolism, and superstitions, which are about luck.

About half the respondents said they’d used a ritual before their last difficult task. Of the rituals described, most did not involve luck or religion, but most did involve symbolism — some feature that connected it to the upcoming activity but was not necessary, such as putting cleats on in a particular way before a game.

The researchers then turned to the effectiveness of a made-up ritual. Eighty-five college students were told they’d have to sing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” in front of an experimenter, with a bonus for accuracy as measured by the karaoke machine. Half were asked to first do the following ritual: “Draw a picture of how you are feeling right now. Sprinkle salt on your drawing. Count up to five out loud. Crinkle up your paper. Throw your paper in the trash.” Those who performed the ritual were less anxious than the others, and as a result they sang better. In a companion experiment, being told they would have to sing raised student’s heart rates, but then performing the ritual lowered them.

To explore the effectiveness of rituals in another scenario, 400 online participants were asked to complete eight math problems, described either as “a very difficult IQ test” with time limits and monetary penalties, thus inducing anxiety, or simply as “fun math puzzles” with monetary bonuses. As predicted, triggering anxiety harmed people’s performance — unless they were first asked to perform the paper-crinkling ritual.

“The surprising part is how effective rituals are for improving performance,” said Kathleen Vohs, a business professor at the University of Minnesota who has studied rituals but was not involved in this work. “I like that a lot. It’s surprising and fresh.”

rituals

So rituals work, but why? There are four possibilities, according to Juliana Schroeder, a business school professor at the University of California at Berkeley and a collaborator on the paper. The first two focus on actions: Performing structured movement might reduce anxiety by giving people a sense of order, or it might require so much attention that it distracts from the source of anxiety. The next two focus on higher meaning. Rituals could act as placebos if people associate them with better performance, or they could involve specific symbolism, such as throwing your anxieties in the trash.

Relevant to the fourth explanation, other research has demonstrated the power of enacting metaphors to change how we feel. A 2013 paper in Psychological Science reported that when teenagers wrote positive thoughts about their bodies, their attitudes about their bodies improved — unless they threw their notes in the trash, thus trashing their thoughts. A 2010 paper in the same journal reported that when subjects wrote about a regretful experience, placing the page in an envelope increased “psychological closure” and reduced negative feelings about the event.

So Brooks and her collaborators conducted another experiment to tease apart the possible mechanisms of rituals’ effectiveness. To induce anxiety, they told 120 adults they would have to take a timed math test that would indicate intelligence. A third of them were asked to perform the following set of actions, described to them as “a short ritual.” “Please count out loud slowly up to 10 from zero, then count back down to zero. You should say each number out loud and write each number on the piece of paper in front of you as you say it. You may use the entire paper. Sprinkle salt on your paper. Crinkle up your paper. Throw your paper in the trash.” Another third were given the same instructions, but with the actions described as “a few random behaviors” instead of a “ritual.” A final third simply sat for 30 seconds.

Afterward, those who’d performed the “ritual” rated how helpful or harmful it was; the average rating was in the middle of the scale — neither helpful nor harmful. And yet they performed better on the test than subjects who had just sat there. More importantly, subjects who’d performed the same actions described as “random behaviors” did not perform better than passive subjects.

It appears that ritualized actions improve performance because they hold higher meaning — they work only when conceived of as a ritual. This experiment also hints that the rituals may act through a general placebo effect surrounding rituals, rather than through specific symbolism, as this ritual was pretty bare-bones. But at this point the researchers don’t know if subjects are creating their own specific meaning out of the ritual’s elements.

“There’s been a lot of work on trying to reduce anxiety,” Schroeder says, “and it’s been hard to find effective tools than can work short term.” One effective strategy is the use of metaphors, as mentioned earlier. Another is the reframing of anxiety as excitement — which Brooks has also found to improve karaoke performance — but this trick can only translate one high-energy state to another. Research also reveals the power of expressive writing, but you can’t always sit down with a journal right before giving a PowerPoint presentation.

When asked how elaborate a ritual needs to be to improve performance, Brooks said, “It could be one step, like spinning in a circle. They can be really short, and you can do them anywhere, as long as it means something to you.” And, based on subjects’ ratings of the counting ritual’s helpfulness, they’ll work whether you believe they will or not.

Boggs and other athletes frequently appear on lists of “silly” sports superstitions, but this research shows that their actions are not so silly. “Lots of people use rituals naturally,” Brooks says. “The rituals that an outsider might scoff at, maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to judge, because they can actually be helpful.”

Perhaps those who don’t perform rituals are the zany ones.

By Matthew Hutson   AUGUST 18, 2016    
 
Matthew Hutson is a science writer and the author of “The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking.”

 


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What Is Positive Psychology?

A Brief Overview of the Field of Positive Psychology

Positive psychology is one of the newest branches of psychology to emerge. This particular area of psychology focuses on how to help human beings prosper and lead healthy, happy lives. While many other branches of psychology tend to focus on dysfunction and abnormal behavior, positive psychology is centered on helping people become happier.

Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describe positive psychology in the following way: “We believe that a psychology of positive human functioning will arise that achieves a scientific understanding and effective interventions to build thriving in individuals, families, and communities.”

Over the last ten years or so, general interest in positive psychology has grown tremendously. Today, more and more people are searching for information on how they can become more fulfilled and achieve their full potential. Interest in the topic has also increased on college campuses. In 2006, Harvard’s course on positive psychology became the university’s most popular class. In order to understand the field of positive psychology, it is essential to start by learning more about its history, major theories and applications.

The History of Positive Psychology

“Before World War II, psychology had three distinct missions: curing mental illness, making the lives of all people more productive and fulfilling, and identifying and nurturing high talent,” Seligman wrote in 2005. Shortly after WWII, the primary focus of psychology shifted to the first priority: treating abnormal behavior and mental illness. During the 1950s, humanist thinkers such as Carl Rogers, Erich Fromm, and Abraham Maslow helped renew interest in the other two areas by developing theories that focused on happiness and the positive aspects of human nature.

In 1998, Seligman was elected President of the American Psychological Association and positive psychology became the theme of his term. Today, Seligman is widely viewed as the father of contemporary positive psychology. In 2002, the first International Conference on Positive Psychology was held. In 2009, the first World Congress on Positive Psychology took place in Philadelphia and featured talks by Martin Seligman and Philip Zimbardo.

psychology

Important People in Positive Psychology

  • Martin Seligman
  • Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  • Christopher Peterson
  • Carol Dweck
  • Daniel Gilbert
  • Kennon Sheldon
  • Albert Bandura
  • C. R. Snyder
  • Philip Zimbardo

Major Topics in Positive Psychology
Some of the major topics of interest in positive psychology include:

  • Happiness
  • Optimism and helplessness
  • Mindfulness
  • Flow
  • Character strengths and virtues
  • Hope
  • Positive thinking
  • Resilience

Research Findings in Positive Psychology
Some of the major findings of positive psychology include:

  • People are generally happy.
  • Money doesn’t necessarily buy well-being; but spending money on other people can make individuals happier.
  • Some of the best ways to combat disappointments and setbacks include strong social relationships and character strengths.
  • Work can be important to well-being, especially when people are able to engage in work that is purposeful and meaningful.
  • While happiness is influenced by genetics, people can learn to be happier by developing optimism, gratitude, and altruism.

Applications of Positive Psychology

Positive psychology can have a range of real-world applications in areas including education, therapy, self-help, stress management, and workplace issues. Using strategies from positive psychology, teachers, coaches, therapists, and employers can motivate others and help individuals understand and develop their personal strengths.

Understanding Positive Psychology

In a 2008 article published by Psychology Today, the late Christopher Peterson, author of A Primer in Positive Psychology and professor at the University of Michigan, noted that it is essential to understand what positive psychology is as well as what it is not. “Positive psychology is … a call for psychological science and practice to be as concerned with strength as with weakness; as interested in building the best things in life as in repairing the worst; and as concerned with making the lives of normal people fulfilling as with healing pathology,” he writes.

He cautioned, however, that positive psychology does not involve ignoring the very real problems that people face and that other areas of psychology strive to treat. “The value of positive psychology is to complement and extend the problem-focused psychology that has been dominant for many decades,” he explained.

By Kendra Cherry    Psychology Expert

References
Gable, S. & Haidt, J (2005). What (and Why) is Positive Psychology? Review of General Psychology, 9(2), 103–110
Goldberg, C. (2006). Harvard’s crowded course to happiness. Boston Globe. Found online at http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2006/03/10/harvards_crowded_course_to_happiness/
Peterson, C. (2006). A Primer in Positive Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press.
Peterson, C. (2008). What Is Positive Psychology, and What Is It Not? Psychology Today. Found online at http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-good-life/200805/what-is-positive-psychology-and-what-is-it-not
Seligman, M. E. P. & Csikszenmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist, 55, 5-14.
Snyder, C. R. & Lopez, S. J. (Eds.) (2005). Handbook of Positive Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press.


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Can We Ever Really Change Who We Are?

As a psychiatrist and novelist concerned with people’s inner conflicts, I’m often asked whether people can truly change.

The answer is: yes, and no.

Most mental health professionals agree that our deeply embedded traits and tendencies are ingrained by the time we’re adolescents. Yes, there can be some minor modifications after that, but our basic way of interacting with others is pretty much set by the time we’re 17 or 18. We interact with others in a fairly inflexible and deep-rooted manner. It’s our “way of being.”

So what about someone seeking psychotherapy because of unhappiness with relationships and how life is going? What about the person who repeats endlessly the same maladaptive patterns of behavior leading to frustration, failure, unhappiness, and even depression? Or the person whose relationships are tainted by neediness, or dependency, or the wish to dominate others; or any other traits that make for problems interacting with people?

You’ll notice these aren’t symptoms such as a phobia, or panic episodes, or an onset of a symptom causing psychic distress. Rather, these are enduring personality traits, not temporary states of being.

The goal of any psychotherapy is to help a person develop a better understanding of one’s self. It’s called insight. Hopefully, by developing an awareness of personality flaws, a person can recognize them, and nip them in the bud before they exert themselves and ruin relationships. If this can be accomplished, the person may experience less conflict or tension with other people, and lead a more fulfilling life.

For example, a man comes for counseling because he’s been fired from three different jobs. During sessions (to which he always arrives late), he realizes that as far back as elementary school, he undermined his own success by tardiness and by not completing tasks on time. In high school, he received Cs instead of As because he never submitted his work by the stated deadline. In business, he repeated the same pattern.

masks

He also learns in the psychotherapy sessions that as a child, being late or dawdling was a way to get much-coveted attention from his parents. Without realizing it, throughout his adult life, he’s been repeating this pattern with every authority figure. This has been the source of conflict, failure, firings and general unhappiness throughout his adult life.

With awareness of this tendency, he can begin working to change this maladaptive and self-destructive behavioral pattern — this deeply ingrained trait. He may not always be successful in this effort, but some positive and adaptive changes in his behavior can occur.

While his trait may not have been eradicated, his behavior and interactions with others can begin to change for the better.

I like to think of it in this simple way: Imagine personality style as a 90-degree angle. If a person can move that angle a mere three degrees, then a significant change in how one interacts with other people is surely possible. This can lead to positive changes.

So once again, can people change their basic personality patterns?

Yes, and no. While they don’t alter their basic personalities, through insight, they can change their behavior and become more skillful in their interactions.

 By Mark Rubinstein, MD 
 
Mark Rubinstein, M.D. is an award-winning novelist, physician and psychiatrist. 
He’s the author of Bedlam’s Door: True Tales of Madness and Hope,
a non-fiction memoir with actual patients’ stories that read like fiction.
For more information, please visit www.markrubinstein-author.com
 


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Fun Fact Friday

 
People are more likely to cry at night 
because the lack of sleep makes emotions hard to control.

 

An Oxford University study has found that for every person you fall in love with
and accommodate into your life 
you lose two close friends.
 
A pizza delivery is more likely to arrive to your home 
sooner than an ambulance in a case of an emergency.
 
Eating celery is technically exercise. When you eat celery, 
you burn more calories digesting it than you consume.
 
Blowing out candles on birthday cakes results in roughly 3000 bacteria
capable of forming colonies on the cake.
 
Laughter has been a proven way to lose weight.
 
being nice
 
40% of people who are rejected in a romantic relationship 
slip into clinical depression.
 
Caffeine is bad for you, fat is bad for you, sugar is bad for you. 
But don’t worry, because worrying is bad for you too.
 
Psychology says, being sad with the right people 
is better than being happy with the wrong ones.
 
Cherophobia is the fear of being too happy 
because “something tragic” will happen.
 
Our brains have a negativity bias 
and will remember negative memories 
more than good ones. 
This helps us to better protect ourselves.
 
Challenges are what make life interesting. 
Overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.
 
Happy Friday  🙂
source:       factualfacts.com       https://twitter.com/Fact       @Fact


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What Are the Building Blocks of a Good Life?

These 5 elements can change your life for the better.

I spent years studying damage, deficit and dysfunction in the human mind. I don’t remember once in my training hearing the words “joy,” “awe” or “wellbeing.” We talked about “happiness” but only in a negative sense. During a manic phase of bipolar illness, patients may experience excessive happiness. The diagnostic criterion of mania includes a persistently elevated or expansive mood and inflated self-esteem. This is a bad thing. It has negative consequences like irresponsible spending or reckless sexual behavior.

Genuine happiness is not given much thought in the training of psychologists and psychiatrists. The goal of treatment is to get a patient “back to baseline” (not clinically sick) and the goal of most research is to gain a better understanding of mental disorders.

Studying what people are like at their best has not received much attention until recently. In 1998, Martin Seligman was the President of the American Psychological Association. He had a successful career studying depression and was known for his work on the theory of “learned helplessness” as a model for depression. Yet the singular focus on illness troubled him:

Psychologists (and psychiatrists) have scant knowledge of what makes life worth living. They have come to understand quite a bit about how people survive and endure under conditions of adversity. However, psychologists (and psychiatrists) know very little about how normal people flourish…

Seligman set out to change that. He broke new ground by founding the modern field of Positive Psychology.

Positive psychology proposes to correct this imbalance by focusing on strengths as well as weaknesses, on building the best things in life as well as repairing the worst. It asserts that human goodness and excellence is just as authentic as distress and disorder, that life entails more than the undoing of problems.

Positive psychology has flourished over the past two decades, leading to a greater understanding of optimal human functioning and resilience.

Seligman’s life changing book, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, outlines his groundbreaking theory of wellbeing known as the PERMA model. The theory holds that the following five elements are the building blocks of a good life:

1. Positive Emotion (P)

Positive emotion such as peace, gratitude, satisfaction, pleasure, inspiration, hope, curiosity, awe and love are life enhancing. A “dose” of positive emotion creates an upward spiral of positivity.

upwardspiral

 

2. Engagement (E)

When we’re truly engaged in a situation, task, or project, we experience a state of flow: time seems to stop, we lose our sense of self, and we concentrate intensely on the present.

3. Positive Relationships (R)

We are “social beings,” and good relationships are essential for wellbeing. Strong social connections are linked with good physical and mental health and are also protective against stressors.

downwardspiral

 

4. Meaning (M)

Meaning comes from serving something larger than ourselves. It puts life in perspective. It may be a religion, a cause, or an overriding sense of purpose that we belong to something bigger.

5. Accomplishment/Achievement (A)

Mastering a skill, achieving one’s goal and living life in concert with one’s values is important for wellbeing. Working towards a goal is rewarding in itself.

The good news is that all five elements of PERMA can be cultivated.


Your assignment: get more PERMA in your life today.

 
Samantha Boardman, M.D       Aug 01, 2016
Samantha Boardman, M.D., is a clinical instructor in psychiatry 
and assistant attending psychiatrist at Weill-Cornell Medical College.
For science-backed, actionable insights delivered
 directly to your inbox, visit www.PositivePrescription.com 
and sign-up for The Weekly Dose
Positive Prescription
Data-driven and science-backed resources to encourage
and promote a positive and fulfilling life.


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This Is Why Climbing Stairs Leaves You Breathless

A flight of stairs can leave the fittest people feeling out of breath.

It’s happened to all of us: We’re running late for a meeting and it’s only one flight of stairs away, so we dash on up. But when we arrive at the meeting, we’re embarrassed to be huffing and puffing as if we had just sprinted for a mile. It was just one little flight of stairs!

If you’re tempted to take this as a sign that you need to hit the gym more often, think again: Even marathon runners can get winded by the sudden task of vaulting a flight of stairs quickly, because physical fitness has little to do with it. It’s also tempting to assume it’s just a matter of not warming up. Eh, not really.

What happens when we approach a flight of stairs, with the intention of darting up them quickly, is that our brain tells our body to stop breathing.

Wait. What?

Humans (and many of our closest animal relatives) tend to stop or slow their breathing when concentrating on a specific task for a short period of time. When you’re running to make a meeting, you approach the stairs and aim to sprint up them quickly. This activates a specific program in your brain—let’s call it the “concentration on a small task” program. One result is that you slow or even stop your breathing as you approach the stairs, and maybe even continue this for the entire flight.

The outcome, of course, is that we combine a small burst of oxygen consumption by our muscles with a small burst of oxygen deprivation through our reduced respiration. Together, these two forces make our blood oxygen level plummet. After you’ve scaled the steps, the concentration program terminates. Your brain quickly notices the low blood oxygen level and it sends the opposite signal, which initiates rapid breathing to replace the missing oxygen. (It’s actually a spike in carbon dioxide in our blood that triggers this, but oxygen and carbon dioxide concentrations in our blood are inversely related in all normal circumstances.)

stairs

So why do we stop breathing right when we should be breathing more?

This reflex evolved to keep our bodies still when focusing on a physical task that requires concentration and precision. Imagine threading a needle, making a surgical incision, aiming a rifle, or throwing a dart. The key to being precise with these coordinated physical tasks is stillness and quiet concentration. By slowing or stopping our breathing, we reduce the background movements of our bodies and, hopefully, achieve better accuracy in the execution of our carefully planned action. That’s the idea, anyway.

Some people even report apnea (temporary suspension of breathing) when they are typing, chopping vegetables, looking for something in a drawer or refrigerator, drawing or painting, or any other task that requires momentary concentration.

One can imagine how useful this feature is for our animal cousins, who must make their living in the wild, as well as how useful it was for our ancestors who lived in the African savannah. From time to time, this trick likely made the difference between eating and not. That’s a clear evolutionary value and a clear selective pressure.

Try this: Next time you are dashing to a meeting, concentrate on your breathing, deliberately take deep breaths as you approach a flight of stairs, and force yourself to continue to breathe as you scale the steps, If you do this every time, it should become a habit and hopefully you’ll never arrive huffing and puffing again.

Posted May 10, 2016
Nathan H. Lents, Ph.D.
Beastly Behavior