Saturday, April 30, 2011

Are Women More Emotionally Intelligent than Men?

Yes, and Yes and No.

Emotional intelligence has four parts: self-awareness, managing our emotions, empathy, and social skill. There are many tests of emotional intelligence, and most seem to show that women tend to have an edge over men when it comes to these basic skills for a happy and successful life. That edge may matter more than ever in the workplace, as more companies are starting to recognize the advantages of high EI when it comes to positions like sales, teams, and leadership.

On the other hand, it's not that simple. For instance, some measures suggest women are on average better than men at some forms of empathy, and men do better than women when it comes to managing distressing emotions. Whenever you talk about such gender differences in behavior, your are referring to two different Bell Curves, one for men and Linkone for women, that largely overlap. What this means is that any given man might be as good or better as any woman at empathy, and a woman as good as or better than a specific man at handling upsets.

Let's look at empathy. There are three kinds: cognitive empathy, being able to know how the other person sees things; emotional empathy, feeling what the other person feels; and empathic concern, or sympathy -being ready to help someone in need.

Women tend to be better at emotional empathy than men, in general. This kind of empathy fosters rapport and chemistry. People who excel in emotional empathy make good counselors, teachers, and group leaders because of this ability to sense in the moment how others are reacting.

Neuroscientists tell us one key to empathy is a brain region called the insula, which senses signals from our whole body. When we're empathizing with someone, our brain mimics what that person feels, and the insula reads that pattern and tells us what that feeling is.

Here's where women differ form men. If the other person is upset, or the emotions are disturbing, women's brains tend to stay with those feelings. But men's brains do something else: they sense the feelings for a moment, then tune out of the emotions and switch to other brain areas that try to solve the problem that's creating the disturbance.

Thus women's complaint that men are tuned out emotionally, and men's that women are too emotional - it's a brain difference.

Neither is better - both have advantages. The male tune-out works well when there's a need to insulate yourself against distress so you can stay calm while others around you are falling apart - and focus on finding a solution to an urgent problem. And the female tendency to stay tuned in helps enormously to nurture and support others in emotional trying circumstances. It's part of the "tend-and-befriend" response to stress.

There's another way of looking at male-female differences in EI: Simon Bar-On Cohen at Cambridge University, says that there's an extreme "female brain" which is high in emotional empathy -- but not so good at systems analysis. By contrast, the extreme "male brain" excels in systems thinking and is poor at emotional empathy (he does not mean that all men have the "male brain", nor all women the "female brain" of course; many women are skilled at systems thinking, and many men at emotional empathy).

Psychologist Ruth Malloy at the HayGroup Boston studies excellence in leaders. She finds when you only look at the stars -- leaders in the top ten percent of business performance -- gender differences in emotional intelligence abilities wash out: The men are as good as the women, the women as good as the men, across the board.

That echoes a discovery by scientists who study primates. When a chimp sees another chimp who is upset, say from an injury, she mimics the distress, a way of showing empathy. Some chimps will then go over and give some solace to the upset chimp, for example, stroking the other to help it calm down. Female chimps do this more often than male chimps do - with one intriguing exception: The alpha males, the troupe leaders, give solace even more often than do female chimps. In nature's design, leaders, it seems, need a large dose of empathic concern.

Sigmund Freud

Excluding pop psychologists, (such as Dr. Phil, Dr. Drew or Wayne Dyer) Sigmund Freud is probably the most well known name associated with psychology (at least to the lay public). In Frank Sulloway’s book, Freud: Biologist of the Mind, the author notes, “Few individuals, if any, have exerted more influence upon the twentieth century than Sigmund Freud.” (Shermer, 2001, p.203).

A 1981 survey of chairpersons of graduate psychology found that the respondents considered Freud the most influential figure in the history of psychology (Davis, Thomas, & Weaver, 1982). But times have changed.

“[I]f all the members of the American Psychological Association [APA] who were concerned with Freudian psychoanalysis were collected, they would make up less than 10 percent of the membership. In another major psychological association, the Association for Psychological Science, they would make up considerably less than 5 percent.” (Stanovich, 2007, p.1)

Freud’s association with psychology has negatively influenced the public’s understanding of the field. Contrary to what many think, psychology encompasses more than just Freudian psychoanalysis. “Freud’s work is an extremely small part of the varied set of issues, data, and theories that are the concern of modern psychologists.” (Hale, 2010)

Freud’s methods of investigation are not representative of the methods used by modern day psychologists. Referring to Freud’s methods leads to a serious misperception of psychological research.

Freud did not conduct controlled experimentation, which is the most powerful tool in the modern psychologist’s arsenal of methods. Freud assumed that case studies could establish whether theories are true or false. However, this idea is incorrect. (Hale, 2010)

Popper Criticizes Freud

Karl Popper, an Austrian/British philosopher who is believed by many to be one of the greatest philosophers of science, pointed out that Freudian psychoanalysis makes use of a complicated conceptual structure to explain human behavior after it occurs, but does not make predictions in advance (Hacohen, 2000; Stanovich, 2007). The tendency to give after-the-fact explanations and no specific predictions makes it unscientific.

Scientific progress occurs when a theory makes specific predictions concerning future events, not when it tries to explain everything, as was the case with Freudian psychoanalysis.

Modern psychology pays little attention to the ideas of Freud. Freud’s methods of data collection were different than those used by modern psychologists. Freud based his theories on case studies, not controlled experimentation. His theories lack scientific support and rely on a database of unreliable, unreplicable behavioral relationships (Stanovich, 2007).

Today, psychology is no longer synonymous with Freud.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Color Psychology

Color has a profound effect on perception. It affects our mood and our decisions. Below, the characteristics of colors are described:

Black is the color of authority and power. It is popular in fashion because it makes people appear thinner. It is also stylish and timeless. Black also implies submission. Priests wear black to signify submission to God. Some fashion experts say a woman wearing black implies submission to men. Black outfits can also be overpowering, or make the wearer seem aloof or evil. Villains, such as Dracula, often wear black.

White reflects light and is considered a summer color. Brides wear white to symbolize innocence and purity. White is popular in decorating and in fashion because it is light, neutral, and goes with everything. However, white shows dirt and is therefore more difficult to keep clean than other colors. Doctors and nurses wear white to imply sterility.

The most emotionally intense color, red stimulates a faster heartbeat and breathing. It is also the color of love. Red clothing gets noticed and makes the wearer appear heavier. Since it is an extreme color, red clothing might not help people in negotiations or confrontations. Red cars are popular targets for thieves. In decorating, red is usually used as an accent. Decorators say that red furniture should be perfect since it will attract attention.

The most romantic color, pink, is more tranquilizing. Sports teams sometimes paint the locker rooms used by opposing teams bright pink so their opponents will lose energy.

The color of the sky and the ocean, blue is one of the most popular colors. It causes the opposite reaction as red. Peaceful, tranquil blue causes the body to produce calming chemicals, so it is often used in bedrooms. Blue can also be cold and depressing. Fashion consultants recommend wearing blue to job interviews because it symbolizes loyalty. People are more productive in blue rooms. Studies show weightlifters are able to handle heavier weights in blue gyms.

Currently the most popular decorating color, green symbolizes nature. It is the easiest color on the eye and can improve vision. It is a calming, refreshing color. People waiting to appear on TV sit in "green rooms" to relax. Hospitals often use green because it relaxes patients. Brides in the Middle Ages wore green to symbolize fertility. Dark green is masculine, conservative, and implies wealth. However, seamstresses often refuse to use green thread on the eve of a fashion show for fear it will bring bad luck.

Cheerful sunny yellow is an attention getter. While it is considered an optimistic color, people lose their tempers more often in yellow rooms, and babies will cry more. It is the most difficult color for the eye to take in, so it can be overpowering if overused. Yellow enhances concentration, hence its use for legal pads. It also speeds metabolism.

The color of royalty, purple connotes luxury, wealth, and sophistication. It is also feminine and romantic. However, because it is rare in nature, purple can appear artificial.

Solid, reliable brown is the color of earth and is abundant in nature. Light brown implies genuineness while dark brown is similar to wood or leather. Brown can also be sad and wistful. Men are more apt to say brown is one of their favorite colors.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

What is Psychology?

Psychology can be summed up as “the science of the mind”. It encompasses several subfields:

Biological psychology- the application of the principles of biology to the study of mental processes and behavior. It involves subjects such as nerves, neurotransmitters, brain circuitry, and the basic biological processes that underlie normal and abnormal behavior.

Clinical psychology- the study and application of psychology for the purpose of understanding, preventing, and relieving distress or dysfunction; and to promote mental well-being.

Cognitive psychology
- the study of cognition, the mental processes underlying mental activity. This includes perception, learning, problem solving, reasoning, thinking, memory, attention, language, and emotion.

Comparative psychology- the study of the behavior and mental life of animals other than human beings.

Developmental psychology- the study of the way the human mind develops through their lifespan. This field examines change across a broad range of topics including but not limited to problem solving, morals, language acquisition, personality, emotions, and identity formation.

Educational psychology- the study of how humans learn and the psychology of teaching.

Industrial and organizational psychology- applies psychological concepts and methods to optimize human potential in the workplace. This involves worker evaluation and selection, worker motivation, and creating a positive environment for workers.

Personality psychology- the study of patterns of behavior, thought, and emotion in individuals.

Social psychology- the study of how humans think about each other and how they relate to each other. Social psychologists study such topics as the influence of others on an individual’s behavior (e.g. conformity), and the formation of beliefs, attitudes, and stereotypes about other people.

Ultimately, the goal of psychology is to improve society through the understanding of behavior and mental processes.