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* This Greater Good section, Research Digests, offers short summaries of recent studies on happiness, empathy, compassion, and more. Quick to read, easy to digest—we review the research so you don’t have to! Subscribe to the Research Digests RSS feed to receive future digests.


Is Love Best Expressed through a Touch or a Smile?

"Nonverbal Channel Use in Communication of Emotion: How May Depend on Why"

App, B., McIntosh, D. N., Reed, C. L., & Hertenstein, M. J. Emotion, Vol. 11 (3), June 2011, 603-617.

Is love best expressed through a touch or a smile? This study suggests that the best way to convey an emotion depends on what type of emotion you’re trying to convey. Researchers asked participants to express a range of emotions to someone else using their face, body, or touch. Participants also watched videos of other people expressing emotions and had to identify the emotions conveyed. The results suggest that the body best expresses emotions that convey our social status (e.g., embarrassment, guilt, or pride), the face best expresses survival emotions (e.g., anger, happiness, or sadness), and touch best expresses intimate emotions (e.g., love, sympathy). —Nadine Lueras-Tramma

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How to Cope with Rejection

"Social Acceptance and Rejection: The Sweet and the Bitter"

DeWall, N. C.; Bushman, B.J.Current Directions in Psychological Science, Vol. 20 (4), August 2011, 256-260.

No one ever likes being socially rejected—in fact, it can feel downright painful. But this study suggests the effects of rejection go beyond hurt feelings. Reviewing more than 20 prior studies, it found that social rejection can reduce performance on a challenging intellectual task, reduce impulse control, and increase aggression and levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The authors also looked at how people can effectively cope with rejection, finding (not surprisingly) that it varies by individual but that it’s generally important to overcome rejection and seek out new sources of support or acceptance. Studies have found that effective strategies include striving to form bonds with new friends, recalling positive memories from childhood, and even taking a pain reliever like Tylenol. —Raymond Firmalino

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