10 Tiny Things That Affect The Way You See The World
Imagine living in a world where nothing was set, where the slightest change could twist your perception of reality. You’d go mad, right? Well, here’s the kicker: You’re living in it now. Yep, for all we may like to think we’ve got a handle on this thing called “reality,” the truth is that the tiniest, most insignificant things can alter it in unexpected ways.
10 The Color Red Slows Your Perception Of Time
Remember the first Matrix film? Remember how hyped we all were when we first encountered bullet time? Well get this: All you have to do to experience your own budget version is to see red.
We don’t mean in the metaphorical, “getting angry” sense; we mean the literal color red. In 2011, a bunch of scientists in London took advantage of the overwhelming number of visitors to the Science Museum to organize a bizarre, large-scale experiment. By bathing people in differently colored light and asking them to report on how much time they felt had passed, they found that a minute lasts longer when your world is red. Specifically, they found it lasts an average of 11 seconds longer.
According to the study author, red makes us acutely aware of our environment. This hyper-awareness means our brain is flooded with detail, which in turn makes time seem to slow down. You might not be able to dodge bullets, but at least you’ll have an extra 11 seconds to wonder why you’re being shot at.
9 Music Can Affect The Satisfaction You Get From Food
Have you ever gone out to a favorite restaurant, only to find the food inexplicably tastes terrible? Your natural instinct was probably to blame the chef, but there’s another possibility: The manager may have simply been playing the wrong type of music.
Back in 2012, researchers in Illinois divided a fast food restaurant into two sections. In one section they played soothing music with low light, while the other section was left as they found it. They then monitored the eating habits of diners in both sections, and followed up by asking the diners to rate their enjoyment of the food. The diners sitting in the soothing section ate less of their meal and reported enjoying it significantly more. By contrast, those in the “normal” section both thought less of their meal and ate the whole thing. So next time you decide you hate a restaurant, pay attention to the music. It could be having a bigger impact than you think.
8 Stress Changes Who You Find Attractive
Some people like blondes, others prefer brunettes, but we can all agree that most of us probably have a “type” we look for in a partner. If we ever wonder why we lust after this sub-section of the population, we likely assume it’s down to nature, or instinct. But we’d be wrong—it turns out that who we fancy can come down to little more than how stressed out we are.
In 2012, a bunch of researchers from Newcastle University in the UK decided to practice some arbitrary cruelty by gathering together 81 men and making 40 of them as stressed out as possible. Just before they could break down in tears, they then quickly showed them 10 photos of women ranging in weight from very skinny to obese, and asked the men to rate their attractiveness. The results: The stressed-out group were more likely than their relaxed counterparts to find the heavier women attractive.
Weird as this may seem, it chimes with other findings that suggest men under pressure gravitate toward larger ladies. A separate study in Psychology Today reported that hungry men find large breasts more attractive than men who’ve just eaten, suggesting the whole thing is an evolutionary leftover from when food was scarce and “being stressed” meant “probably going to die of hunger.”
7 Birth Control Affects Your Sense Of Smell
After that last, male-dominated entry, here’s one exclusive to our female readers: If you’re taking the pill, there’s a very good chance it’s altering your sense of smell.
Awhile back, researchers in Italy decided to monitor how the menstrual cycle affects women’s sense of smell. By testing their ability to detect scents at six different points over the month, they found that most women become incredibly sensitive to odor during ovulation. Unless, that is, they were taking the pill. After three months of contraceptive use, the female subjects were no longer able to detect subtle scents at their most fertile.
And here’s the important thing: It’s believed that those subtle scents can determine who you find attractive, and dampening them can shift your perception of how attracted you are to a partner. So next time you find yourself waking up next to a less-than-ideal man and wondering how you got into that situation, blame the pill.
6 Daylight Savings Turns You Into A Bad Worker
How many of you are reading this while you’re meant to be working? Don’t worry about it too much; everybody does it. And here’s the good news: If it’s spring or fall, you’ve got an excuse. The mere act of changing your clock one hour forward or back can make you more likely to waste time on the internet during work hours.
Researchers from across the globe recently studied six years’ worth of Google data to find out what people were searching for on any given day. They found that the Monday after a daylight savings shift saw the number of people looking for entertainment and list-based websites skyrocket. And while some of those users were undoubtedly searching from home, you can’t ignore the office-worker demographic.
According to the study authors, this was likely due to tiredness affecting people’s self-control. In a separate experiment, the same team found that subjects spent an extra 8.4 minutes scrolling through list articles for every hour of sleep lost the night before. Your boss might have some complaints, but you won’t hear a peep out of us.
5 Thinking About Money Can Affect Your Morals
Each and every one of us likes to think we’re moral people. Well, it turns out that just the thought of money can lead you to make morally bankrupt decisions.
Last year, a joint group of Harvard/Utah researchers conducted a sprawling experiment involving word games followed by business-related activities. During the gaming round, a number of subjects were subconsciously exposed to money-related words, while the rest got “neutral” phrases. Then they all had to make business decisions with a moral component. Want to guess what happened?
Those who’d been exposed to the money words—like “cost, “spend,” or “buy”—cheerfully abandoned their morals in favor of lies and deception, even when doing so gave them no advantage whatsoever. The simple thought of money, removed of any context, was apparently enough to throw their moral compass out of whack, to the extent that unethical behavior like lying seemed easily justifiable. No wonder banks like HSBC have no problem supporting terrorists and drug cartels.
4 Coffee Can Make You Less Suicidal
We’ve all had days when we feel like the world is a cold and frightening place. For some people, those days seem endless, and it can seem like there’s only one way out. But according to researchers at Harvard, there may be one absurdly easy way to change your negative perception of the world: Just drink a cup of coffee.
In a gigantic study that monitored nearly 200,000 people over the course of 20 years, researchers tracked suicide rates among those who did and didn’t drink coffee on a regular basis. Bizarrely, they found that those who consumed as little as a single cup a day had their risk of suicide reduced by nearly 50 percent. And it appears to be closely linked to the caffeine, rather than anything else you’d find in the coffee—the people who reached for decaf were in the exact same boat as those who stayed away from coffee completely.
The theory is that caffeine acts as a mild anti-depressant because it boosts the brain’s production of neurotransmitters. But here’s the catch: Too much is actually worse for you. The sweet spot is right in between two and four cups per day. A separate Finnish study concluded that drinking eight or more actually increases your risk of self-harm and suicide, meaning that this is one miracle cure that definitely only works in moderation.
3 Watching TV Can Make You More Sexist
In this enlightened age of 2014, most of us have probably figured out that it’s not okay to greet women with a wolf-whistle and a lame joke about kitchens. But according to recent research published in the Journal of Communication, each of us is apparently only one TV episode away from being a slightly more sexist version of our normal selves.
It sounds unbelievable, but watching a TV show featuring weak female characters in peril can make men think about women more negatively. To prove this, researchers showed a group of 150 students one of three shows: a horror show where a passive female character gets abused, an episode of the Gilmore Girls (the control), or an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which has a strong female lead). They then tested the participants with questions about their views on the role of males and females and noted the results.
As you might have guessed, they found that those who had watched the passive woman get abused thought less of women in general and were more likely to spout sexist drivel than those who watched the other shows. It’s amazing what kind of impact TV can have on our mindset.
2 Fast Food Can Make Beautiful Art Seem Boring
A couple months ago, researchers in Toronto decided to test the effects of fast food on our ability to savor the finer things in life. To do this, they rounded up two hundred people and showed them a few pictures of fast food, followed by some nature shots of outstanding beauty. They then asked the participants to rate how much enjoyment they derived from the pictures.
Almost without exception, those who’d seen the fast food images beforehand rated their enjoyment as significantly lower than those who hadn’t. The mere thought of a burger and fries can apparently dampen your ability to appreciate natural beauty.
When researchers repeated the experiment with a different group, but played them an opera aria instead, the results were identical. Those who were thinking of fast food found the music hard to enjoy and estimated that it ran on much longer than those who’d seen only “neutral” pictures. According to the study authors, this is likely because our minds link convenient things (like fast food) with impatience, meaning we no longer feel we have time for intangible things like artistic merit.
1 Your Perception Of Time Depends On Your Gender
Remember The Time Traveler’s Wife? It was a weepy movie about how hard it was for a couple who experienced time in different ways, and how that affected their relationship. Well, here’s some trivia to blow your mind: If you’re in a relationship, the same thing is happening to you right now.
Over the years, a number of studies have seemed to suggest that men and women experience time differently. As far back as 1992, researchers found that shoving men and women into a dark, noise-reduced room and then asking them to estimate the time resulted in wildly different answers between the genders. A few years later, another study found that women in negative moods felt time passed more quickly than their male counterparts. Tip-toe into our present era and yet more studies seem to confirm these findings.
Now, we should point out that the research in this field seems far from conclusive. But even so, it raises some interesting ideas—namely that you and your partner might well experience time at slightly different speeds. It may not quite be the basis for a sci-fi tearjerker, but it’s still pretty weird.