The Story of a “Happily ever after”-Part 2

Your McDreamy is not so dreamy after all. You realize that its his hair and not silk..! Its oily and undressed most of the time. You start thinking, “Why can’t he have simple black eyes like me? Why does it have to be brown..!” The same jokes that made you laugh once are just irritating now. His gentle care-giving attitude, although impressive, is annoying you. You are just bored out of your mind to look at the same face every day.

Thus we enter the third phase which has the most cliched name, the reality phase. Its the phase that punctures that wall of idealization that you have been building beforehand. It is when you start thinking whether you really like this person and whether you two could work. You think of your possibilities together and start rating your relationship on a balance of success and failure. If the relationship blossoms, there are greater rewards. Of course, you need to be “uncomfortably” honest with each other to reach there. And the odds are never in your favor. It is said that it is hard to get through this phase.

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The next phase is a serious phase and the name itself makes you get serious – the commitment phase. You decide that he or she is the one.  You decide what things to do together and what things to do without them. You leave every thought aside and try to think about making this work. You start to unconsciously negotiate. You start hearing things like, “you are clogging my space” or “I need some space please”.

Understood properly, the commitment phase is said to be your last chance to really see what you are getting into. You have gotten away from McDreamy and you know how different you two are. You also know where your wavelengths match. So, its all about setting a balance and reminding yourself about your individual differences. What components of your personality are working and what are troubling can be identified.

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And finally we reach the last phase most of us are familiar with – the marriage phase. It is said to be the most troubling relationship phase of all. No wonder you can find lots of jokes on married couples 😉 If you do want to know what goes on in this stage, its very easy really. Don’t think I am gonna ask you to marry. You just need to hear the jokes on them. I am sure you would get a fair idea.

So the next time you find a “happily ever after”, you know what you’re dealing with (I hope).

Signing off…

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The Story of a “Happily ever after”-Part 1

You watch a classic. The hero and the heroine lock eyes across the hall and fall in love. They can’t live without each other and decide to get married. They fight the villains and the unsupportive families. Ultimately they get married and live happily ever after.Wow! Such a fairy tale right? So what actually happens in this “happy forever” phase? Well, psychology explains this in stages. So, grab your popcorn and coke to listen to its story.

happily ever after

The first stage is where it all begins-locking of her eyes and his eyes..attraction phase!

From the eyes of a girl– I suddenly observe a tall and handsome man enter the hall. He has a broad chest and a well built body. His hair, brown in color is silky smooth and almost touches his collar bone. His dark locks which make him all the more appealing. His eyes are brown and dreamy and I feel lost in them. He wears a black silk suit and has a golden rose emblazoned on the upper left sleeve. I could look at him all day long.

Yes. The most important factor in the law of attraction is the physical attractiveness of the person.

Also, people are more likely to become friends with people who are close-geographically, relatively, etc. Psychologists call it proximity.

The next two are the common ones-similarity and reciprocity. We look for commonalities in them and see if they reciprocate our liking.

The next phase (which I find as the most interesting phase) is called the honeymoon phase. Don’t be fooled by its name. It has nothing to offer in *those* lines.

The guy and the girl go on a date. Prior date preparations are something like this.

The first thing that crosses a girl’s mind is, “What am I gonna wear???” She spends almost 2 hours of her time trying to find an answer to this question. She tries on dress after dress rejecting the previous one thinking, “I want to look perfect there. And this is not even close”

The guy too tries to look his best, brings his best game on. He tries some good perfumes and deodorants, probably Axe 😉

This entire date would be about showing that you are the best-funny, smart, intelligent, broad-minded and sexy of course.

Psychologists say that honeymoon phase is the key phase where one builds up a good head of steam which would hopefully get him or her through all the other stages. The real term for it is “idealized positive transference.” Idealized, that’s easy – that’s your image of the perfect person for you. Positive, well that’s a very positive image; it’s all good things. Transference: you take that from inside of you and you put it onto the other person. This is when you see the person not for who they are but for who you really in your deepest dreams hope they will be.

Up until here, it is all about “McDreamy”. So what is next then? What would happen when the dream breaks? What will happen when you are confronted with reality? What will happen when all the greater questions of life come into picture? What will happen when you just get bored of playing Mister or Miss Perfect? Stay tuned to know more.

Signing off…

I KNEW IT ALL ALONG..!

You are studying a chapter from a book. You read it once and feel, “This is so obvious and simple. I am going to nail this. Yay!!”. So now you take up a test on this chapter. The moment you see the first question, you go blank and you don’t know the answers to any of the questions.

Your friend comes to you and tells, “My girlfriend dumped me”, and you say, “I am so sorry for you” and think in your mind, “Oh I knew it. I knew she would ditch you..!”

Has any of this happened to you?

If it has, then you were experiencing the I-knew-it-all-along phenomenon, also termed as Hindsight Bias.

As the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard put it, “Life is lived forwards, but understood backwards”.

Psychologists say that in everyday life, we often do not expect something to happen until it does. Then we suddenly backtrack and see clearly the forces which caused the event to happen. Sometimes, these forces may be a product of our own stereotypes, prejudices, values and perceptions.

Once we get the cause, the result seems unsurprising so much so that we forget that the result was actually surprising when we did not know the cause.

You want more proof? Well, so did a group of psychologists who conducted an experiment to demonstrate the same.

They divided students from a University into two groups. Both groups were given proverbs and were asked to provide an explanation as to what they thought about it.

The first group was told,

Social psychologists have found that, whether choosing friends or falling in love, we are most attracted to people whose traits are different from our own. There seems to be wisdom in the old saying “Opposites attract.”

The second group was told,

Social psychologists have found that, whether choosing friends or falling in love, we are most attracted to people whose traits are similar to our own. There seems to be wisdom in the old saying “Birds of a feather flock together.”

It was seen that both the groups found equally good explanations and found it “unsurprising” and “obvious”.

Still don’t believe it? Well, neither did I. I mean come-on both proverbs hold good depending on the situation right? In the beginning of the article, I have quoted what a Danish philosopher once said. I gave a glance (thought I remembered it) and tried to type it here, but I had to go back to look at the quote thrice before I could type the entire thing here..!

If hindsight bias is pervasive, you may now be feeling that you already knew about this phenomenon and just did not know that it was called so 😀

Signing off…

CONTROL THYSELF..!

I am sure we all have, at some point of time in life, hit the snooze button of a ringing alarm even when we know that 5 minutes more of hiding under the bed covers is going to cost us. “Just stop procrastinating..!”, you would have told yourself when you have a pile of papers to read and you just want to watch a show on TV or sit in the balcony and stare outside. You plan a diet of heavy mornings and light dinners and promise yourself to stick to it for a month. After two days, your mother or wife makes a sumptuous mouth watering meal at night and you just devour it to your heart’s content.

Did you just notice one word that was missing in all these cases which led to disasters? Well, I did (for obvious reasons). This word has very high powers, is preached to us by elders and is an “exhaustible natural resource” in its literal sense.

The word is SELF-CONTROL.

The concept of self control dates back to all the religious books which constantly advocate its practice.

It is mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita, Quran and also Bible. Here are a few verses which indicate the same.

“He who has conquered his self is in the company of the Supreme. In cold or heat, happiness or sorrow, respect or disrespect, he is always serene.” (Bhagavad Gita Chapter VI)

“O David! …do not follow the whims of your own soul for they will lead you astray from God’s path.” (Quran 38:26)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” (Bible Galatians 5:22-24)

So what is it that makes our historians mention about this? Why is it so important?

To answer this we need to visit our animal brothers and sisters. Lets see what we have in common with them.

Scientists have found that animals also have care and affection for their peers. They also exhibit social behavior. By social behavior, I mean you could see a herd of elephants mourn for the death of one of its members. They have a helping nature too. Scientists have seen them help an elephant who collapsed in the African forest. Other animals exhibit similar characteristics.

So how are we different from them? We have a power to discriminate between good and bad. When we head towards bad, we try to control ourselves. Without this, we would just be animals.

Now, I said self-control is an exhaustible natural resource. To illustrate this, lets see this experiment which was one of the earliest in self-control.

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Participants were asked to skip their meal and their hunger was further stoked by seating them in front of a tray full of delicious cookies. There was a bowl of radishes alongside.

Half of them were told to eat only radishes and not cookies. The other half were privileged with cookies.

Later, all the participants were given a set of extremely difficult (unsolvable) puzzles and were timed how long they kept trying before giving up.

It was observed that those who ate radishes gave up earlier than the ones who ate cookies.

What can we observe here?

Radishes are not brain food but cookies are..!! 😀 Definitely not.

By resisting cookies, their self-control and hence will power depleted. So they gave up on the puzzles soon.

This may be the reason why dieters eat more fattening food when their willpower has been depleted.

So the question is, how would you save this depleting resource and be a “human”?

Signing off…

Fun with norms

Right from the time you are born, you are governed by rules. As a school going child, you are told to prepare notes. As a college student, you have to attend classes and maintain your attendance. As an employee, you are to be in office for fixed hours.

Now tell me who has told you to eat the food on your plate with a spoon when you go to hotels? Who has told you not to sit next to a stranger in a bus even when there are other empty seats in the bus? Why do you look around before you try to scratch your back in public? Why do you find it odd to yawn with your mouth wide open in an interesting seminar? Have you tried to enter a lift and face your back to the door?

Psychologists have termed these as Social Norms. These are a set of beliefs held by a group of people about how the members should behave in a given social context.

I tried breaking one such norm and tried to record reactions.

COIN POWER

I went to a store to buy a few hair clips. He showed me black colored clips. I asked him, “Do you have different colored ones?” He replied, “Of course madam..!” and started bringing out boxes of colored clips. 

I started looking at them and thought out loud(yes, I mean loud in the literal sense). I picked up the pink clip and said, “Hmm, this can go with my pink shirt…” By then, the shopkeeper had an anxious face and was about to keep it aside to pack. Suddenly, I said, “Oh no it has blue patterns with it…also, its a lighter shade of pink.” I dropped this and picked a red one. 

Yeah baby, blood red. This color always suits me and it looks so cute..!” The shopkeeper was happy and moved his hand forward to pick the red one for packing. I stopped him saying, “Wait! I cannot wear it with any other dress. It would be a waste.” His face was as though he had just missed coming very close to winning a trophy.

I continued giving a free peek into my thoughts over colors green, yellow, orange, silver and gold. The shopkeeper’s face was red by now. In the meanwhile, I was feeling very awkward thinking out loud and I was trying to “talk” myself out of it. I was thinking what the shopkeeper might think about me. He might be very wild with me and might think I am a complete dumbo..!!

After a marinated cocktail of feelings within me and a variety of reactions from the shopkeeper, I decided to stay with two black hair clips. The shopkeeper was relieved the free show was over and started packing. Little did he know that this was his unlucky day.

He told me that the total amount payable was fifty rupees. I pulled out a coin purse and poured the coins onto the table. All of them were one and two rupee coins. I started counting them out loud beginning from one. (I felt and looked like a complete idiot. I wanted to stop the counting and apologize to him. I even felt like laughing at how I was trying to make a fool out of myself)

The shopkeeper had entirely different thoughts going on. He just stared at me with an expression that said, “Oh common..!!! Are you serious?? What on earth is wrong with you??”

By the time I reached the count of 30, the shopkeeper was clearly and evidently irritated. He stopped me and said, “Madam, let me count it for you..!” He grouped the coins into five per group and finally made it a half century.

Victorious and relieved, he made the bill and was too glad to send me off.

Try breaking one and see for yourself.

How obedient are we?

This is for all the “last-benchers”, “class-bunkers” and all those who think they have disobeyed someone at some point of their life.

I came across an article in which an experiment was conducted to show how social situations can affect the way we behave. Read on. 

While reading the Sunday newspaper, Bill notices that a prestigious university is recruiting people to participate in a psychological study designed to help people improve their memory. He decides to volunteer for the experiment as he thinks it is interesting and he will also get paid a fee.

On his arrival at the university’s laboratory, Bill is greeted by the researcher and introduced to a second applicant named Douglas. The experimenter explains that the research study will test a new method of improving people’s learning and memoryby punishing them for their errors.

The task is straightforward: Bill will play the role of the “Teacher” and give Douglas, the “Learner,” a set of word pairings to memorize in a given time period. Every time that the Learner provides the correct answer, the Teacher gives him a verbal reward, “Good” or “That’s right.”When wrong, the Teacher is to press a lever on the impressive looking shock apparatus that delivers an immediate shock to punish the error.

The shock generator has 30 switches, starting from a low level of only 15 V and increasing in intensity all the way up to 450 V. The control panel indicates both the voltage level of each of the switches and a corresponding description of that level. For instance, the 25th level (375 V) is labeled “Danger, Severe Shock.” The experimenter goes on to note that every time the Learner makes a mistake, the Teacher must press the next higher level voltage switch.

The Learner is escorted into an adjacent room, where his arms are strapped down and an electrode is attached to his right wrist. The shock generator in the next room will deliver the shocks to the Learner—if and when he makes any errors. Doug mentions that he has a slight heart condition and hopes the shocks will not hurt him much.

He is reassured not to worry, that the shocks may become strong but will not cause any permanent damage. Bill administers the test material and communicates over the intercom to Doug, while the Experimenter stands near him.

Initially, Doug performs well, getting rewarding praise from Bill. However, he soon starts making errors, for which Bill immediately starts pressing those shock switches. As Doug messes up more and more, the shock levels are going up, and he complains that the shocks are starting to hurt.

At 75 V, he moans and groans; at 150 V, the tenth level, Doug (Learner) has had enough and demands to be released from the experiment. Bill looks anxiously at the Experimenter, who nods that he must continue.

As the shock levels increase in intensity, so do the Learner’s screams, as well as his reminder that he has a heart condition. Bill is now really distressed: “Sir, who will be responsible if anything happens to that man?” The Experimenter dismisses his concern about personal responsibility by declaring, “I will be fully responsible, now continue your task, Teacher.

At 300 V, the Learner demands to be freed and complains louder about his heart condition. Bill has had enough, he verbally dissents,“I can’t continue to hurt him, sir, I refuse to go on.” The Experimenter calmly insists that Bill must continue because he has a contract to complete the experimental procedure.

Reluctantly, Bill goes on punishing Doug for his errors until he reaches the level of 330V. Bill hears screams, a thud, and then silence from the shock chamber.“He is not responding; someone should go in there to see if he is all right.” But the Experimenter is impassive and tells Bill, “If the learner doesn’t answer in a reasonable time, about 5 seconds, consider it wrong.

Now, I will stop here and pose a few questions.

  1. At what shock level do you think Bill stopped the experiment?
  2. How do you think you would act if you were in place of Bill?
  3. At what shock level would you absolutely refuse to continue?

Okay, let me answer the first question for you.

Every two out of three people (500 participants) on whom this experiment was conducted went up to the maximum shock level 450 V !!! And Bill was one of the two.

You would have thought that most of them would have verbally dissented or just walked out of the room right? I mean who would sell out their morality for a few currency notes. Would you?

Thats the power of an authority over you. I would rather call it a social situation.

But remember that although there was a majority that obeyed fully, there was the other one of three people who refused to give in to unjust authority. So what makes people help others, serve the poor or even act heroically?

Welcome to Social psychology. I will share more as I learn more. Stay tuned.

Signing off…

Psyche-ed !!

A major misconception about psychologists is “Ooh you are a psychologist? Then I should be careful with you..you can read my mind..!” 

For all those who think the same, here is a very quick history of its terminology.

  • In the early days, when psychology was first introduced, they called it as the study of the “psyche” which means “soul”.

Well, has anyone seen “soul”? If not, then how can you study it ??? :O

  • So, they re-defined it as the study of the “mind”.

I thought mind was an expirience and could not be seen…confused !!O.o

  • Finally, they called psychology as the study of “behavior”.They defined it as the scientific study of human behavior.

Ah !! Now that makes sense..! 🙂