* This new Greater Good section, Research Digests, offers short summaries of recent studies on happiness, compassion, altruism, and more. Quick to read, easy to digest—we review the research so you don’t have to!
Does TV Really Impair Kids’ Attention?
"The Value of Reanalysis: TV Viewing and Attention Problems"
Child Development. Vol 81(1), February 2010, 368-375.
In this study, researchers found that moderate amounts of television viewing among young children (ages one and three) was not associated with later attention problems at age seven, despite previous reports to the contrary. Television viewing was only a problem among children who watched over seven hours of television per day. The authors suggest that the quality of television kids view may also make a difference. —Kat Saxton
Why You Don’t Always Need to Feel Your Partner’s Pain
"For Better or Worse? Coregulation of Couples’ Cortisol Levels and Mood States. "
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Volume 98 (1), January 2010, Pages 92–103.
We might think we should be so closely tied to our spouses that we feel their pain: When they’re stressed, we’re stressed; when they’re calm, we’re calm. But it turns out that more happily married couples have stress levels that are less tightly synchronized with one another, and this may actually be healthy: When one partner is upset, the other can remain calm, allowing the couple to disengage from escalating conflicts. So, happier spouses may not always mirror what their spouse is feeling, nor should they. —Laura Saslow
Dulling the Pain of Exclusion
"Ostracism: How Much It Hurts Depends on How You Remember It"
Emotion. Vol 9(3), June 2009, 430-434.
Ostracism is a common social experience that has powerful effects on our sense of belonging, control, and self-esteem. So how do we keep its negative effects from lingering afterward? In the first study of its kind, researchers found that ostracized people not only suffer while they’re being excluded; they continue to suffer later if they mentally recall the event from an outside observer’s perspective. But research suggests that viewing past events from our own perspective, not that of an objective outside observer, elicits less anxiety and emotion, and so may facilitate recovery from traumatic social events. —Erica Lee