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Emotion

Not interesting in having you mind blown? Stop reading now

in Editor Pick/Media Psychology/Work Psychology by

Ok, so if you’re not in the mood for having your mind blown, stop reading right now.

Still here? Ok, here we go.

The universe is about 93 billion light years in diameter. Given that light travels at 300,000km per second and this means one light year is about 9.5 quadrillion kilometres, I won’t even try to express the size of the universe. In short, it’s big, and it makes us incredibly small.

Ok, you’ve probably heard all this before, right? Apologies for the ruse. You already know the universe is big, complex, weird and terrifying/amazing all in one. Your mind is probably not blown at all. But it should be. Because the universe is incredibly awe inspiring. Let’s not forget that.

Like most people, you’ve probably siloed this confronting idea in the deep, dark recesses of your mind and have got on with your morning coffee and emails. Good for you.

If you don’t spend your days working in astrophysics, it is understandable that you probably don’t want to think about this too much. It can easily make your day feel rather pointless in the big scheme of things. It can easily make the activity across the globe and time itself trivialised.

Even when writing this blog, I really needed to make an effort in bringing in the universe example, rather than something more accessible—say, Donald Trump—as it overwhelms me even to think about the universe and existence even for a few small moments. Yet, I seem to allow time for Trump. What a strange fellow he is. But how strange that we can’t stop writing and talking about him whilst something like the universe is there crying out to be noticed.

So, I’ll do you a deal. I’ll get on with writing this and you’ll get on with reading this and then we can return to our simple, coffee-drinking, Netflix-watching, Facebook stalking existence, which is just so much more enjoyable.

But if you take the time to remove yourself from these smaller activities, it is truly amazing to consider we we are a part of something much greater and inspiring than our morning cup of coffee. The universe, and similar concepts that are much bigger than ourselves, promotes awe, recalibrates the ego and can connect us with our peers, society and culture.

Awe is what got the man to the moon as people watched on from the comfort of their homes. It inspired science fiction shows and films, elevating the unknown and passion for space exploration.

Research from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology indicates that awe can also be used for our more immediate and modest goals.

Across several studies, they demonstrated that priming participants with a scenario or memory that inspired awe also promoted more ethical behaviour, generosity and values associated with others and nature, rather than Trump-like ambition and power.

According to the researchers, awe makes us feel ‘smaller’ and connects us with a broader purpose and collective. In one study, simply reflecting on a large Eucalyptus tree subsequently promoted the prosocial values of individuals compared to those who reflected on an office building. Presumably, even nature—its history, complexity and connectivity—can inspire awe.

It seems that efforts to promote teamwork and collaboration within workplaces could be better spent on ensuring the workplace has these moments of awe. All the better if a workplace can anchor its entire vision, purpose and goals behind something bigger and awe-inspiring.

Too often I see workplaces take the easy way out. It is easier to examine an environment that is deficient in behaviours, values, communication, and business plans. It’s much harder to diagnose a problem with purpose and inspiration.

It’s no wonder we notice others so quickly reaching for the computers and smart phones. These are not people who are caught up in an awe-inspiring workplace. Their internet connection is more valuable because it connects them with people, ideas, creativity, and fun.

Many workplaces seem to recognise the importance of vision and purpose as each year they produce plans and write strong ‘purpose’ statements. But how often are these documents really awe-inspiring? The visions and purposes are most often mediocre that are interchangeable with many other organisations. They are basic enough not to offend and vague enough so that the workplace’s activities easily align with the goals. Employees often don’t care too much about the workplace vision and goals and get swept up into the day-to-day tasks that have more immediate implications.

But let’s get back to work now. As important as it is to be inspired, we also have a day job, emails to write and coffees to drink. We have Facebook posts to draft and LinkedIn accounts to manage. Perhaps the universe has a grander purpose that even makes sense of all these emails, status updates and coffees on planet earth?

Ok, now what’s Trump up to today…oh dear.

6 times to try the opposite at work

in Editor Pick/Work Psychology by

Don’t trust your anxious gut

It can often be difficult to differentiate between our gut—our intuition—and anxiety. Intuition helps us detect patterns and leads to moments of insight. It can guide us through difficult interpersonal and personal issues.

Many individuals, however, believe they are trusting their gut when they are really being manipulated by their internal worries and fears. Unlike intuition, anxiety narrows our focus, makes us fret about the near future, and leads to avoidance behaviour.

Anxiety keeps you in jobs that are making you miserable. It makes you avoid public speaking and standing up for yourself. It creates a wall between you and others out of fear of embarrassment.

When you experience anxiety, your best course of action is to do the opposite of what the anxiety is telling you.

You should go for that new career, speak up, and lower your guard with others.

Start the day with something challenging

Most of us ease into the year, the month, the week and the day like we are getting into a hot bath. It’s easier to email a few people or file some documents then move into something challenging once we’ve warmed up.

The opposite is to jump straight into something challenging.

Indeed, research suggests that when we start each day with a couple of tasks that are mentally demanding we are more alert and attentive later in the day.

Allow yourself to feel sad

I recently watched a video taken at my daughter’s kinder, summarising the year. The video solely focused on happy moments, as you’d expect. No parent wants to see a video depicting children crying, sitting alone, or looking sad.

We like to quarantine sadness as an anomaly or deviation from the norm. Mild sadness and dejection, however, serve a purpose to help us reflect on our shortcomings and plan a different approach.

Furthermore, forcing ourselves to be positive has the unintended consequence of making us feel miserable—called the ironic rebound effect, where the emotion we try to suppress returns more intensely than before.

The opposite here would be to use a flat mood to your advantage. Instead of fighting it, embrace it. Slow down, reflect and plan your next steps.

Stop monitoring people

Most organisations demand compliance but lose track of all the written and unwritten rules of the workplace. Workplaces become onerous and confusing places and before long individuals aren’t even sure what’s expected of them.

When individuals feel obliged to complete an activity or follow a rule they need to exert more mental effort.

This effort can ultimately lower motivation. This means that when the supervisor isn’t checking, employees bypass these boring and disengaging rules. Monitoring, therefore, increases to stamp out the non-compliance and around we go.

In contrast, when individuals truly value an activity they don’t need to expend as much mental energy. The task doesn’t require self-control.

So, do the opposite when you have a compliance problem. Reduce the monitoring and cut back on the rules. Instead, identify what employees value.

Two ears one mouth

It seems logical in the workplace to constantly strive to demonstrate your worth and ability. We might highlight our accomplishments or actively try to solve a business problem and show results.

But research shows that we are more influential when we shut up and listen. Additionally, when we adopt an open approach to learning, rather than performing, we appear less threatening and are liked more by our colleagues.

Importantly, we also learn more too. So, in doing the opposite, you should always be thinking ‘What can I learn?’ rather than ‘Look what I can do.’

Never worry…ever

Worrying is intoxicating. It makes us feel like we have more control over future events than we really do.

But debating with yourself and thinking about all the things that could go wrong is almost always a waste of time. Worries rarely come true and even when they do we learn more from the problems anyway.

Do the opposite next time you are stewing over a difficult problem. Try the opposite and enjoy the liberation when you realise you don’t have to worry anymore.

Dr Nicholas Duck is a blogger and founder of Opposite 

Can workplace initiatives improve your morale?

in Editor Pick/Work Psychology by

When I was working part-time as a public servant I used to miss out on the free massage on Friday. The massage was probably a small part of a broader portfolio of health and well-being initiatives.

It was a nice idea but, of course, years later the media found out and twisted (or liberated) the story. The health and well-being benefits were overshadowed by the fact that a professional masseuse was kneading the various vertebrae of public servants.

I wonder if the back massage actually worked. Did it improve mobility and reduce workplace injuries? Probably not. But maybe it gave public servants a morale boost that subsequently improved the performance of the department. After all, perhaps just demonstrating care for our employees is enough to improve job satisfaction?

Research suggests that these appealing initiatives may only temporarily boost our mood. Over time these improvements may not only diminish but also result in a decline in mood, essentially balancing out any short-lived improvement.

This phenomena is referred to as the ‘overshoot effect’. According to opponent process theory, when we experience a spike in happiness we throw our emotions out of equilibrium. As a result, an opponent emotion, dejection, temporarily lowers our mood before it stabilises again.

Similarly, when we experience heightened anxiety, the initial distressing spike is felt followed by an opponent emotion—relaxation—that restores our mood to a steady state.

So, many of our efforts to promote a long-term improvement in well-being may be neutralised by the natural equilibrium of the brain and body. My colleagues may have enjoyed that massage but the enjoyment may have simply devolved into a mild depression before returning their malleable bodies and minds to a more normal state.

7 scientific findings that support Pixar’s Inside Out

in Editor Pick/Film & TV Psychology by

When I was attending a lecture in psychology on Sensation and Perception, the lecturer described a story in amazement where a student said to him ‘what’s this got to do with psychology?’. Sensation and perception, the lecturer explained, was the very heart of how we understand and interact with the world around us.

The lecturer was right but missed the irony that this student had misperceived his material on perception.

This isn’t uncommon in psychology classes. Students walk in with dreams of Freud, inkblot and word association tests, and also the hope of understanding themselves.

Instead, they sit through countless lessons on statistics and listen to lots of different and seemingly loosely connected topics on personality, social psychology, sensation and perception, developmental psychology and so on.

What’s missing is what ties all the disconnected threads together. Some call it a theory. I think of it as more of a story.

Inside Out is a story that essentially integrates and explains the seemingly disparate pieces discussed in dry lectures. The film shows how these pieces come together using the metaphor of characters inside a young girl’s head, called Riley, representing the little girl’s emotions.

Here are seven clever and important psychological mechanisms that Inside Out nails.

Emotion helps formulate memories

Research shows that emotion helps us retain and recall memories. In Inside Out, the characters in the little girl’s head work to guide her through life but their ultimate output at the end of the day is memory formation.

Forcing yourself to be happy will make you miserable

My favourite depiction of emotion was ‘Joy’, a character who obsessed with suppressing another character, called ‘Sadness’. The harder she tried to prevent Sadness from generating memories, the more Sadness seemed to influence the memories and mood of Riley. This aligns with research that shows that suppressing emotions can simply make us more miserable.

Distance in time changes our perception of events

A powerful scene in Inside Out shows Riley recollecting a past, happy experience but suddenly feels a twinge of sadness as the character in her head, Sadness, contaminates the memory. Of course, it isn’t really contaminated. Riley is experiencing nostalgia, which is an emotion that connects us with meaning in the past and is associated with feelings of sadness.

Emotional diversity and complexity promotes resilience

Experiencing a wide range of emotions helps us adapt, according to studies. Riley’s character development was represented as forming more complex memories and emotions, which supports this research. This is different from many characters in films who are perceived as successful when they overcome, rather than embrace, ‘negative’ emotions.

Sadness triggers social support

According to functional views of emotion, sadness is believed to help trigger social support. When Riley finally accepts the emotion of sadness, she not only forms more complex memories but this emotion triggers support and love from her parents, which helps her cope.

Sadness helps you plan and improve

When we get an insight into the mind of Riley’s mother, some interesting foreshadowing is revealed. In contrast to Riley, the character in her head representing sadness has control, instead of joy. We realise that the character, Sadness, serves an important function. She helps Riley’s mother navigate, plan, and respond, which aligns with research that shows that mild dejection activates the region of the brain that helps us plan.

This makes sense given that after failing to fulfill our goals and dreams, we feel flat, which can help us re calibrate and change our approach.

Memories form our identity

Research shows that when we access experiential memory–where we store our most meaningful memories–we are more engaged. In Inside Out, Riley struggles for much of the film to recall and lean on her identity when she experiences agitation. This is consistent with research that shows that anxiety reduces access to this part of the brain.

Through metaphor, I was impressed how the writers of this film where able to engage me the way many University lecturers failed. In a strange way, the individuals who work at Pixar seem to instinctively express and communicate their knowledge of psychology more than individuals who devote themselves to analysing them. This includes me. I’m envious but also in awe.

5 benefits of being ‘too’ sensitive

in Work Psychology by

On the TV show Masterchef contestants sample from a large pot filled with a wide range of spices and other ingredients. One by one the contestants guess ingredients ranging from salt to squid ink and are eliminated when they make an error.

The real challenge boils down to whether they are sensitive. That is, can their senses decipher these wicked combinations of ingredients?

Sensitivity is generally associated with being too emotional. People who are too sensitive may constantly burst into tears, ‘crack’ under pressure or simply be touchy.

However, it all depends on what triggers your sensitivity. If you are sensitive to rewards and accomplishments, you may be easily aroused and experience bursts of excitement and enthusiasm.

And if you are sensitive to negative consequences, you may be quick to become anxious and worried.

Then there is sensitivity to aesthetics. This sensitivity relates to whether we are attuned to the subtleties in our environment, such as the comfort of a chair or the design of a room.

You can read more about ‘trait sensitivity’ here.

 

 

Five benefits of being sensitive

If you can weather the roller coaster of emotions, there are also benefits in being sensitive:

1. You can be more attuned to the underlying needs of others. This can help you in negotiations or in influencing others.

2. You may be better at designing effective solutions because you are more sensitive to the existing limitations.

3. You can have a greater appreciation for and enjoyment of the arts and entertainment.

4. The emotions of others feel contagious, which may help with bonding and in building relationships.

5. You can be more sensitive to your own quirks, making you more aware when you are unhappy and need to make a change. For example, you may have not really bought into the angle of this blog and will quickly switch back to your work. Log your emotion below to let me know. Don’t worry, I’ll try not to be too sensitive to your feedback.

You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry

in Work Psychology by

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When Bruce Banner gets angry and becomes the Incredible Hulk, he gets results.

For that reason, anger is one of those interesting emotions that can make us uncomfortable but—strangely—feels compelling.

Anger typically helps us to overcome obstacles to certain goals. Specifically, when we are pursuing rewards or ideals and someone or something gets in the way, our ‘fight’ response kicks in to help us push through these obstacles.

For example, when delivering a pet project you may regularly come in contact with others who throw up smokescreens and barriers to prevent you from reaching your goals. They’ve got their own goals, mind you, and maybe you’re getting in the way of them.

That’s why we all bounce around like ping pong balls between one person and the next to try to reach our own preferred outcome. And we often step out of the way or avoid the angry, vocal lot. Anger can work wonders in getting you closer to a goal.

But there are some drawbacks with anger. Aside from the obvious problems it generates—the inevitable outbursts, alienation of co-workers, and even violence—anger can also give you tunnel vision.

Studies show that anger makes us better at dealing with details but impairs our ability to see the bigger picture.

In one study, participants were required to hit a button when they saw a particular letter of the alphabet on a computer screen. The letters were presented in clusters so that when viewed as a whole they actually showed a larger pattern which also resembled a letter.

The participant had to try to switch their attention from the larger ‘bigger picture’ letter to the smaller letters from which it was composed. Essentially, the test lets the researcher know how easily the participant can broaden or narrow their focus.

The researchers also flashed split-second images designed to elicit feelings of anger to half of the participants. The images were outside conscious awareness but nevertheless made some of the participants angry.

These angry participants found it easier to see the smaller letters but their reaction times were slower when detecting the larger letter. That is, they were better at narrowing their focus but couldn’t rise out of the weeds to see the bigger picture.

The researchers also found that angry individuals were also less inclusive in how they categorised things. For example, they rejected the notion that words like ‘camel’ and ‘car’ could be classified under one heading (e.g. mode of transport, words starting with c).

Anger appears to help individuals to focus on a specific goal and works to close us off to alternatives. Of course, unlike the Incredible Hulk, I am open to an alternative interpretation.

Do you scoff at Apple products?

in Media Psychology by

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How many people have you met who are proud they do not own an Apple iPhone or iPad?You know the type. They disregard the slick designs and marketing and focus on the technical and functional characteristics of products.

But if you are one of the many millions of iPhone owners you might be more willing to admit you simply like the look and feel of your device. If you didn’t care about appearances you would be more than happy to scroll through a basic checklist of apps rather than navigating through colourful buttons.These preferences extend to your home too.

Open your pantry and you will find an assortment of brands that probably taste exactly the same as a generic product. Your television might have looked just as good if you purchased a lesser brand, so long as you weren’t aware it wasn’t really a Sony.

You may have tirelessly debated over a shade of paint and were willing to spend more because that premium off-white really looks better than the cheaper off-white.

Many people, however, do not think they are easily manipulated by all that. They love the idea that they are sensible and rational and can, therefore, find a bargain and spend their dollars where it counts.

For example, they believe they are not influenced by advertising, branding and other messages designed to persuade. It’s referred to as the ‘third-person’ effect. 

And it is true to a point.

In one study, when participants were exposed to the features of a very expensive product they were subsequently less likely to purchase that item than a more functional one. Presumably, the mere exposure to extravagance deterred individuals from making the superficial choice.

However, when the participants were distracted and not given enough time to think things through, they were more likely to purchase the expensive product.

The reason this happens is that when not given much time to think, we can base our decisions on emotion. The luxury products, for example, make us feel a bit more comfortable and we use this as a quick method to gauge their quality.

So, the third-person effect makes some sense when we have time to really think things through. Unfortunately, many of life’s decisions are made on the run and we are often distracted by choices as well as different views and opinions.

And advertising is relentless. It invades every aspect of our lives: on our pantry shelf, on television, radio, clothing, store windows, labels and billboards. Even written in the sky.

You may think you can logically ignore all this but eventually advertising, luxury brands and other superficialities will weed you out and make you invest in something you don’t really need. After all, you were suckered into reading this fairly superficial blog. And all the way to the end too. That’ll be ten dollars, thanks.

Afraid of making a bad impression?

in Work Psychology by

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In meeting rooms across the globe there are people terrified of being themselves. They project their workplace selves, showing how conservative, cautious, ambitious, collaborative, assertive and clever they are.

They are less likely to talk about their nerves, worries and confusion. Let’s not be human when we’ve got colleagues, clients and managers to impress, right?If we care to admit it, we have all been concerned with making a bad impression.

I had a friend who walked into a shop to ask a girl on a date. She declined and he felt bad about it. However, he was also quick to recall all the other things that magnified the rejection making him feel even worse.

His hair and clothes were a mess. He felt people were staring at him from the moment he walked in until the moment he made his deflated exit.

At that point in time the whole universe seemed to focus attention on his scruffy, rejected appearance. Of course, this was just a memory fuelled by emotion.

Fear of rejection makes us better at recalling these negative experiences. It can also make us disapprove of others.

In one study individuals were told they were going to meet someone and were instructed to be sure to make a good impression.

In a subtle change to the instruction, another group of participants were told to avoid making a bad impression.

Each group then read a list of personal characteristics supposedly nominated by the person they were about to meet. Shortly afterwards they also read a description of the person.

They were then were asked to recall as many of the characteristics they could remember from the list.

Those participants instructed to avoid making a bad impression were more likely to remember the negative qualities of the person, compared with those instructed to make a good impression.

They were also more likely to instinctively dislike the person (who they never actually ended up meeting).

It seems that when we are preoccupied with not making a bad impression we are also more sensitive to possible problems and threats. So, we start to see others through the same negative lens and are more attuned to their negative qualities.

The researchers suggest this is one reason why individuals concerned with loneliness and rejection also feel the loneliest and most rejected. Their perception is distorted by their fear.

It can explain why so many individuals dread being asked to deliver a presentation or give a speech. Even when successfully delivered, the fear of making a bad impression can leave lingering negative thoughts about the experience.

Perhaps instead of trying to avoid a bad experience, individuals should simply refocus on the strategies and tactics for making a good impression. It’s a subtle shift but, after all, the last thing you want to do is make a bad impression.

Guilt makes you take risks

in Work Psychology by

Because the people, processes, systems, structures and culture of workplaces are not perfect we ultimately need to rely on individual responsibility, judgment and decision-making. And to control the individual, organisations often use blame to make employees fall in line.

Take an employee who works on a construction site. They may have the wrong tools to complete the job, poor supervision and unclear direction. If they decide to cut corners many workplaces are quick to focus on their risk-taking behaviour rather than significantly improve the workplace factors that contributed to this poor performance.When they fail to comply more conscientious employees feel guilty. These feelings of guilt should, in theory, lead to employees reflecting on their failures so that they can be more careful and risk-averse in future.

However, studies have shown that feelings of guilt generate more risk-taking. Across several experiments, researchers made participants complete activities that induced these feelings of guilt. Other participants were simply made to feel other emotions, such as sadness.

The participants were then presented with a series of decisions. The guilty participants consistently made riskier decisions than the other group.

The researchers argue that we experience guilt when we believe we had control over the outcome of a situation. For example, guilty participants in one study believed they had much greater control over uncontrollable factors such as the economy.

So, a focus on blaming employees, rather than fixing workplace conditions, could actually be promoting the illusion of control.

How does this ultimately play out? Blaming employees reinforces this illusion of control. Employees continue to believe that their safety and performance are in their own hands.

Employees, therefore, are indirectly encouraged to rely on their own judgment and make decisions on the fly rather than seek help and recommend or make smarter, long-term changes to their working environment.

When a colleague hurts himself or cuts a corner it’s just his fault for failing to take personal responsibility and accountability. The cycle continues.

Imagine if workplaces were strongly encouraged—and even rewarded—for actively looking for long-term and enduring changes to the workplace. What would really happen if there was a ‘no blame’ policy?

Would people revolt and do silly things or would they now have the right mindset to start fixing the workplace?

Facebook may be making you miserable. Like?

in Media Psychology by

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Are you a passive user of Facebook? That is someone who likes to read the posts of others and scroll through their photos without much of a comment or ‘like’?

You may think you’re making a statement by not joining in the superficial cyber nonsense, memes and invitations for flattering comments. But research suggests that you may also be making yourself miserable.

Research shows that passive users of Facebook report a decline in their wellbeing after viewing the Facebook pages of their friends.

In one experiment participants were required to view the Facebook pages of their friends but to refrain from actively posting comments (passive users). Another group of participants were instructed to actively post comments (active users).

Participants also rated their wellbeing on an online survey when they returned home in the evening. Interestingly, the passive participants reported a nine per cent decline in their wellbeing.

Active posters did not report a decline.

A follow-up study had participants rate their Facebook use over several days and, again, their feelings of wellbeing at regular intervals. As before, participants who reported more passive daily use of Facebook also reported a decline in wellbeing.

But, importantly, passive participants also reported greater feelings of envy, which appeared to be the main reason they felt flat.

Every day millions of people regularly use Facebook, which may be actively contributing to feelings of dissatisfaction.

It may be tempting to blame the evils of social media but perhaps it merely reinforces some common sense. Being a passive spectator in life may make you miserable.

Please share this blog on Facebook…for the sake of your wellbeing! 

Emodiversity (Emotional Diversity). Yeah, that’s a thing now

in Work Psychology by

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At first it was gender diversity—an important response to the imbalance of roles and opportunities for males and females. It then became more about diversity of gender, race, and background.

More progressive organisations are starting to focus more on the benefit of diversity, like different kinds of thinking, ideas, and decision-making.

At the heart of diversity is survival. If an organisation is too one dimensional, it fails to adapt and dies.

Now, there’s a newcomer called ‘emodiversity’, a term that describes the variety of emotion you experience.

Research shows that individuals who report a greater range of emotions—positive and negative—also report greater resilience. That is they tend to report fewer depressive thoughts.

Indeed these individuals also have better physical health. One study revealed that individuals with greater emodiversity had fewer trips to the doctor and days spent in hospital, and did not need to spend as much on medical care.

The researchers argue that people with greater emotional diversity could be simply better at adapting to their environment.

Take a team of champions where everyone is super positive all the time. These teams may blindly take risks and downplay issues, leading to overconfidence.

In contrast, a team of highly anxious and conservative individuals could lead to a failure to take any risks. They may, for example, always stick with traditional approaches and feel uncomfortable with anything new or exciting.

Individuals with greater emodiversity, however, can rely on a suite of different emotions to help drive their decision-making. For example, when confronted with a significant issue their concern and fear may deliver a well-needed, conservative approach.

If afforded an opportunity to invest in a new business opportunity these same individuals may suddenly experience a burst of enthusiasm to help build relationships and generate ideas.

Ultimately this research suggests that resilience could be increased by building self-awareness about emotion rather than trying to promote positive thinking, which can have diminishing returns.

Of course, being too diverse all the time can also, ironically, be a bit one-dimensional. A business that diversifies too much can lose focus on its core business. A person who experiences a rollercoaster of emotions can create feelings of uncertainty and apprehension amongst their colleagues.

Perhaps this issue will spawn a new trend called ‘emo-everything in moderation’?

Left Vs. Right Brain Characters

in Film & TV Psychology by

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Although only loosely based on science, there is some truth in the idea that the left side of the brain functions differently from the right side.

The left hemisphere is traditionally associated with rational thought, logic, linear thinking and appears to be better at processing threats, and details. The right hemisphere is associated with intuition, creativity, emotion, and insight. Read more about this here.

Although there’s actually not much support for the idea that we are left or right brained, the term ‘left brained’ and ‘right brained’ in a convenient way to distinguish between logical and rational people versus creative and intuitive types.

Many of our favourite TV shows have established ‘left brained’ and ‘right brained’ characters who spend much of the time fighting.

Spock and Dr ‘Bones’ McCoy

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Much of the series Star Trek pitted the deeply logical and rational ‘left brained’ Spock against the passionate and very human ‘right brained’ Dr McCoy. These two characters were forever debating the merits of logic versus compassion.

Dr Jack Shepherd and John Locke

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Lost had a rich array of characters to call on but the show ultimately centred on two main characters. Jack Shepherd was the logical, ‘left brained’ leader who followed science. Locke trusted his faith and intuition and had genuine insight and awareness into the unseen weirdness of the island where they crash landed.

By the end of the series, Locke had perished and Jack carries on his legacy, perhaps showing that Jack had an awakening of insight or his right brain was finally let loose.

Fox Mulder and Dana Scully

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Agent Scully was the skeptic forced to go undercover to expose Agent Fox Mulder. Together they eventually formed a formidable partnership. Mulder believed in the unusual and weird and was willing to trust his instinct about the true nature of an alien conspiracy.

Scully would forever look for simple, linear, and rational explanations for all strange events, which became more difficult over the course of 9 seasons of freaks, aliens, and monsters.

Sheldon and Penny

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Pair physicist Sheldon Cooper (and his friends to a lesser extent) with actor neighbour, Penny, and the outcomes are inevitable. This duality plays out constantly on the Big Bang Theory.

‘Left brained’ Cooper is logical and rational to the extreme, almost operating and perceiving a different reality. ‘Right brained’ Penny flies by the seat of her pants, trusting her gut, following an unpredictable yet creative career path.

Walter White and Jesse Pinkman

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Some would argue Breaking Bad’s Walter was also a master ‘right brained’ thinker, trusting his insight and intuition. Others would argue that he was so strongly rational and left-brained that his cold, hard logic led to poor decisions, which alienated everyone around him.

Jesse didn’t seem to follow either hemisphere in the early seasons of Breaking Bad. However, the cold logic of Walter White, ultimately didn’t ‘feel right’ for Jesse who slowly became deflated and traumatised. Surely his ‘right brain’ was telling him something was off?

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