Category Archives: Human behavior

High Facebook ‘likes’ stress out recipients

Last week we noted that researchers in Denmark found that folks who ditch Facebook are happier after they do.

And now research from Sonia Lupien, professor at the University of Montreal’s Department of Psychiatry and Scientific Director of the university’s affiliated Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal Research Center, gives us an idea why that’s so.

From Newswise:

Facebook can have positive and negative effects on teens levels of a stress hormone, say researchers at the University of Montreal and the Institut universitaire de santé mentale de Montréal. Led by Professor Sonia Lupien, the team found that having more than 300 Facebook friends increased teens’ levels of cortisol. On the other hand, teens who act in ways that support their Facebook friends – for example, by liking what they posted or sending them words of encouragement – decreased their levels of cortisol. Their findings were published in Psychoneuroendocrinology.

Lupien and her colleagues recruited 88 participants aged 12-17 years who were asked about their frequency of use of Facebook, their number of friends on the social media site, their self-promoting behaviour, and finally, the supporting behaviour they displayed toward their friends. Along with these four measures, the team collected cortisol samples of the participating adolescents. The samples were taken four times a day for three days.

Stress levels measured in adolescents from cortisol samples are obviously not entirely due to the popular social media site. “While other important external factors are also responsible, we estimated that the isolated effect of Facebook on cortisol was around eight percent,” Lupien said. “We were able to show that beyond 300 Facebook friends, adolescents showed higher cortisol levels; we can therefore imagine that those who have 1,000 or 2,000 friends on Facebook may be subjected to even greater stress.”

Other studies have shown that high morning cortisol levels at 13 years increase the risk of suffering from depression at 16 years by 37%. While none of the adolescents suffered from depression at the time of the study, Lupien could not conclude that they were free from an increased risk of developing it. “We did not observe depression in our participants. However, adolescents who present high stress hormone levels do not become depressed immediately; it can occur later on,” Lupien said. “Some studies have shown that it may take 11 years before the onset of severe depression in children who consistently had high cortisol levels.”

The study is one of the first in the emerging field of cyberpsychology to focus on the effects of Facebook on well-being. “The preliminary nature of our findings will require refined measurement of Facebook behaviors in relation to physiological functioning and we will need to undertake future studies to determine whether these effects exist in younger children and adults,” Lupien said. “Developmental analysis could also reveal whether virtual stress is indeed ‘getting over the screen and under the skin’ to modulate neurobiological processes related to adaptation.”

The study, “Facebook behaviors associated with diurnal cortisol in adolescents: Is befriending stressful?,” was published in Psychoneuroendocrinology and would cost a nonsubscriber $35.95, with the proceeds going to the rapacious Elsevier.

Map of the day: Freedom of Expression Index

From Global Support for Principle of Free Expression, but Opposition to Some Forms of Speech [PDF], a new report on attitudes across the globe from the Pew Research Center:

Microsoft Word - Pew Research Center Democracy Report FINAL Nove

TV crime shows linked to sexual behaviors

A fascinating study reveals a link between the kinds of TV crime shows watched at attitudes obtaining and adhering to a prospective partner’s assent to sex.

What follows is an account of the article’s findings via Newswise, and it’s especially revealing, given that the subjects interviewed are belong to a group much linked to sexual assaults and protests of sexual conduct in recent months:

Previous research has identified that exposure to the crime drama genre lowers rape myth acceptance and increases sexual assault prevention behaviors such as bystander intervention. However, recent content analyses have revealed marked differences in the portrayal of sexual violence within the top three crime drama franchises. This study explores the influence of exposure to the three most popular crime drama franchises: Law & Order, CSI, and NCIS. Published in the Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives, the study Law & Order, CSI, and NCIS: The Association Between Exposure to Crime Drama Franchises, Rape Myth Acceptance, and Sexual Consent Negotiation Among College Students looks into the effects of exposure to crime dramas.

The study concluded that the different franchises had different effects on those surveyed. Exposure to Law & Order is associated with decreased rape myth acceptance and increased intentions to adhere to expressions of sexual consent, while CSI and NCIS are associated more negatively. Exposure to the CSI franchise is associated with decreased intentions to attain consent and decreased intentions to adhere to those expressions of sexual consent. Exposure to the NCIS franchise was associated with decreased intentions to refuse unwanted sexual activity.

The authors said of the intent of the study, “[It] aims to contribute to the existing literature in two important ways. First, this study accounts for the differences in content between crime drama franchises. Second, this study expands on research that has established that general crime drama viewing is associated with rape myth acceptance by also investigating whether exposure is associated with intentions related to sexual consent negotiation.”

We’d love to know more, but this is just one more instance of the predatory rapacity of modern academic publishing.

The Taylor & Francis Group, publishers of the Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives, want $40 for a look at the article, an example of the unalloyed greed which does so much to keep information out of the hands of the people and confined to a select few — in short, the very antithesis of the notion of academic freedom.

Chart of the day II: World drug use graphed

From World Drug Report 2015 from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime:


Eating ills plague bullies and the bullied

Bullies and their victims share more than a tortured relationship, according to a newly published study.

They also share eating disorders.

From Newswise:

Being bullied in childhood has been associated with increased risk for anxiety, depression and even eating disorders. But according to new research, it’s not only the victims who could be at risk psychologically, but also the bullies themselves.

Researchers at Duke Medicine and the University of North Carolina School of Medicine were surprised to find that in a study of 1,420 children, those who bullied others were twice as likely to display symptoms of bulimia, such as bingeing and purging, when compared to children who are not involved in bullying. The findings are published in the December issue of International Journal of Eating Disorders.

For a long time, there’s been this story about bullies that they’re a little more hale and hearty,” said lead author William Copeland, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University School of Medicine. “Maybe they’re good at manipulating social situations or getting out of trouble, but in this one area it seems that’s not the case at all. Maybe teasing others may sensitize them to their own body image issues, or afterward, they have regret for their actions that results in these symptoms like binge eating followed by purging or excess exercise.”

The findings come from an analysis of interviews from the Great Smoky Mountains Study, a database with more than two decades of health information on participants who enrolled at age 9. The data is considered a community sample and not representative of the U.S. population, but offers clues to how children ages 9 to 16 could be affected.

Participants were divided into four categories – children who were not at all involved in bullying; victims of bullying; children who sometimes were victims and sometimes were instigators; and children who were solely bullies, repeatedly abusing other children verbally and physically, socially excluding others, and rumor mongering, without ever becoming a victim themselves.

The researchers were not surprised to find that victims of peer abuse were generally at increased risk for eating disorders.

Children who were victims of bullying were at nearly twice the risk of displaying symptoms of anorexia (11.2 percent prevalence compared to 5.6 percent of children who were not involved in bullying) and bulimia (27.9 percent prevalence compared to 17.6 percent of children not involved in bullying).

Children who were both bullies and victims had the highest prevalence of anorexia symptoms (22.8 percent compared to 5.6 percent of the children not involved in bullying) and also the highest prevalence of binge eating (4.8 percent of children as compared to less than 1 percent of uninvolved children) and vomiting as a way to maintain their weight.

More after the jump. Continue reading

Carts of Darkness: Entering the binner’s world

Binners, that’s what they call themselves, the men and women who pluck the goodies from recycling bins before the trucks arrive. In Berkeley, early mornings on pickup days are marked by the sound of the wheels of the shopping carts they use to haul away their goodies.

Housing costs in Vancouver, British Columbia, are the world’s second highest, second only to Hong Kong, so it might be surprising to learn that the Canadian city is also to a significant homeless population.

And binners in affluent North Vancouver have added another, dangerous dimension to the recycling game, racing their carts down the city’s steep hills at speeds of up to 45 miles an hour, unencumbered by helments, knee and elbow pads, or any other protective paraphernalia.

Enter Murray Siple.

A feature in Dwell gives some background:

Murray Siple has never been one to be hampered by physical realities. Traversing a near-vertical mountain on a thin piece of wood seems impossible to many, but to former snowboarder Siple it was just another day on the job. The now 35-year-old Siple studied photography and video at the Emily Carr Institute in Vancouver, then left school to make extreme-sports movies, traveling all over the world to film skateboarders, mountain bikers, and snowboarders careening down steep mountains. Not once did fear stand in his way.

Then, in the fall of 1996, a catastrophic car accident brought an early end to Siple’s time on the slopes, resulting in what is known in medical terms as C 6/7 quadriplegia. In everyday terms, this means that Siple has only limited use of his arms and hands, and that he’s traded in his snowboard for a manual wheelchair.

In 2008 Siple turned his gaze on the cart racers, their sport reminding him of the joys of the snowboarding and other extreme sports which had been at the center of his life.

The resulting documentary explores not only the cart racing but the lives of the men [and they are mostly men] who race them.

And, in the end, Siple joins one of his subjects for an exuberant downhill run.

From the National Film Board of Canada:

Carts of Darkness

Program notes:

Murray Siple’s feature-length documentary follows a group of homeless men who have combined bottle picking with the extreme sport of racing shopping carts down the steep hills of North Vancouver. This subculture depicts street life as much more than the stereotypes portrayed in mainstream media. The film takes a deep look into the lives of the men who race carts, the adversity they face and the appeal of cart racing despite the risk. Shot in high-definition and featuring tracks from Black Mountain, Ladyhawk, Vetiver, Bison, and Alan Boyd of Little Sparta.

Directed by Murray Siple – 2008

Facebook defaces our lives, stealing happiness

esnl has never been on Facebook for the simple reason that we loathe the notion of commercialized friendships.

And now we find there was a solid foundation for our concern, as documented by researchers from Denmark’s Happiness Research Institute0, who compared moods in two groups: One which continued using Facebook as usual, the other which gave it up for a week. The results were stunning.

From RT America:

Facebook blues: People feel happier after ditching social media

Program notes:

A new study by the Happiness Research Institute, a Danish think tank, found that people’s moods and emotions are linked to how often they use social media sites like Facebook. People who took breaks from the site felt better about their lives. Alexey Yaroshevsky has the details.

And it wasn’t just stress.

Here’s a summary of other findings from the report, The Facebook Experiment: Does Social Media Affect The Quality of Our Lives? [PDF]: