The psychology of toilet paper hoarding, rituals to ease anxiety and other interesting slices of life
The psychology of toilet paper hoarding
If you watched with bemused dismay as your fellow citizens responded to a viral pandemic by buying all the toilet paper they could carry, then this study may answer some of your questions. In March 2020 toilet paper sales increased by up to 700 per cent, so some savvy researchers got ahead of the game and between 23 and 29 March had more than 1000 adults complete surveys that covered demographics, perceived threat level from COVID-19, quarantine behaviours and toilet paper consumption. The thing that best predicted toilet paper stockpiling was perceived threat from the pandemic, but there was also a link to personality. People who scored high on conscientiousness (organised, diligent, perfectionist and prudent) were also more likely to stockpile toilet paper. The researchers noted that this did not explain all of the toilet paper hoarding behaviour and that there were other personality factors at play. But one thing you know about those people with a room full of toilet paper; they are conscientious.
Source: PLOS One
Rituals ease anxiety
In the midst of a pandemic we’ve lost many of our rituals such as graduation ceremonies, weddings, funerals, parades and even sports. Why are we so keen to resume some of these apparently frivolous things? A group of researchers has been examining the role of ritual for some time now. In one recent study they induced anxiety by asking subjects to make a plan for dealing with a natural disaster that would then be evaluated by government experts. After this anxiety-inducing task half of the group performed a religious ritual at a local temple while the other half sat and relaxed in a non-religious space. Those performing the ritual showed a greater reduction in both physiological and psychological stress. The researchers say that ritual helps reduce anxiety by providing the brain with a sense of structure, regularity and predictability. Don’t be ashamed of your rituals — they help you cope.
Source: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences
The upside of desk jobs
You might want to pull your own head off if you hear again that “sitting is the new smoking”. For you desk jockeys out there, if you can’t spend all day standing at your desk for whatever reason, here’s some good news. Researchers examined patterns of physical activity among 8500 people aged 40–79 at the start of the study which lasted 12 years. After the 12 years, subjects completed tests that evaluated cognition including memory, attention, visual processing speed and reading ability. The results showed that compared to people with physical jobs, people with desk jobs, irrespective of education, were less likely to have poor cognition and were most likely to be in the top 10 per cent of performers. While regular physical activity has a range of health benefits, it doesn’t seem to protect your brain function, possibly because desk jobs tend to be more mentally challenging.
Source: International Journal of Epidemiology
Seeking social status
Fame and fortune will boost your standing in the eyes of others, but researchers wanted to see what other qualities might boost or harm your social status. To do this they surveyed people across 14 nations so that they could find what impressed and what did not, regardless of culture. They found that qualities that improved esteem in others’ eyes were being honest, hard-working, kind and intelligent, having a wide range of knowledge, making sacrifice for others and having a good sense of humour. By contrast, qualities that reduced social status were being dirty or unclean, meanness, nastiness, being known as a thief, bringing shame on your family and having a sexually transmitted disease. Having a committed long-term relationship boosts status for both genders while, in a clear case of entrenched double standards, promiscuity reduces the status of both sexes, but much more so for women than men.
Source: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
Did you know?
Personality: vegetarian vs meat-eaters
A study of more than 9000 people found that there is a link between being vegetarian or vegan and personality. People who eat predominantly plant-based foods are more likely to be introverted than meat-eaters. The question is, does meat make you more outgoing, or if you are more outgoing do you choose meat? The chicken or the egg? Or should that be, the tofu or the soybean?
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