Smartphones, self-control and other interesting slices of life
Are “right-brain thinkers” really more creative? How do smartphones impact our self-control? We take a look at the answers to some of the biggest questions in this month’s life lines.
Creativity in your brain
Popular belief is that creativity is a “right-brain” activity and innovative people are thought to be “right-brain thinkers”. By contrast, the left hemisphere of the brain is considered to be analytical and logical. Neuroscientists are sceptical of the simplicity of this notion because human creativity must draw on large portions of both brain hemispheres. This issue has been examined in a new study looking at the brain activity of jazz guitarists during improvisation. The research showed that creativity is, in fact, driven by the right hemisphere in guitarists who are comparatively inexperienced at improvisation. However, highly experienced guitarists relied more on their left hemisphere during improvisation. It seems creativity is “right-brain” when the situation is unfamiliar but that creativity draws on well-learned “left-brain” routines when a person is familiar with a task. As usual, the simple truism is too simple to be true.
Smartphones and impulses
For this study, researchers recruited subjects who agreed to having their smartphone use monitored for seven to 10 days. Usage was monitored down to how much time they spent on each app. The subjects also completed several tasks and questionnaires that measured their self-control and behaviours regarding rewards. The results showed that people who spent the most time on their phones were more likely to prefer smaller, more immediate rewards to larger, delayed rewards. This preference for smaller immediate rewards was further broken down to being most common among people who liked two specific types of app: gaming and social media. Subjects who showed greater self-control spent less time on their phones. However, self-control and consideration of future consequences did not vary with screen time. This adds to other research showing a strong link between smartphone use and impulsive decision-making, and it’s a warning that high levels of smartphone use during teen years is a potent mix.
Source: PLOS One
Digging in to dogma
Dogmatic people believe that their world view represents an absolute truth and they are often resistant to changing their minds. The cognitive drivers of dogmatic thinking are not well understood. In a new study, researchers gave subjects questionnaires designed to establish their levels of dogmatism. Then the subjects were given a task that involved simple decision-making. They were shown two boxes, each with flickering dots, and were asked to decide which box contained the most dots. After they had made an initial choice, the researchers gave the subjects the chance to have another clearer view of the boxes. The subjects then made a final decision. Dogmatic individuals and moderates were the same in terms of accuracy but dogmatic people were more likely to decline the additional information, and especially when they were uncertain of their original decision. In a political scenario, this makes dogmatism a highly dangerous phenomenon.
Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Oysters and champagne
In the gourmand world oysters and champagne are considered the perfect pairing. You might think that it’s just the relative expense of the foods that pairs them, but in a new study researchers have found that it is more than that. Food scientists from the University of Copenhagen have found that the answer lies in their umami taste (one of the five basic flavours detectable to human taste buds). The researchers found that a umami synergy exists in champagne and oysters. In champagne it comes from the dead yeast cells providing glutamate and, in the oysters, it comes from the nucleotides of the mollusc’s muscles. Together, these umami flavours strongly enhance each other. It’s the same synergy that exists with eggs and bacon, ham and cheese or tomato and meat. The delectable joy of these food combinations lies in their umami synergy or, you might say, they are “yumami!”.
Source: Scientific Reports
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Parents and technology
Parents stress about their children’s screen time and try to make well-intentioned restrictions, but new research shows they can relax a little. According to the study of more than 1200 young adults, parental limits on youth technology use has no lasting effect on use in adulthood, and equally, time spent on technology during teen years has little impact on long-term use.
Source: Advances in Life Course Research