It might sound crazy, but we’re living in a world where even the slightest change to a seemingly innocuous element can twist our perceptions of reality. A lot of research has gone into uncovering the how and why behind our everyday actions and interactions, and the results are revealing. Even though we might like to believe that all of our feelings and actions are controlled by conscious thoughts, the truth of the matter is that even the smallest, most insignificant things can alter our point of view. These are nine common aspects that affect the way we see and feel about the world around us.
9. Your Gender Affects Your Concept of Time
A number of studies seem to suggest that men and women experience time differently. In 1992, researchers discovered that when people were placed in a dark, soundproof room and then asked to guess the time, the answers varied wildly between genders. Another study showed that women seem to feel that time is passing more quickly when they’re in a bad mood.
Although research in this field isn’t quite conclusive, it does suggest that males and females differ to some degree in their temporal awareness.
8. The Color Red Slows Down Your Perception of Time
In 2011, a large-scale experiment was conducted using visitors at a London science museum. People in the experiment were bathed in different colored light and then asked how much time they felt had passed. The results showed that a single minute seemed to last, on average, 11 seconds longer for people who saw everything around them as red.
According to the author of the study, the color red tends to make us acutely aware of our surroundings. This heightened sense of awareness then floods our brain with details that have the effect of making time seem to move more slowly.
7. Using Birth Control Changes Women’s Sense of Smell
A few years ago, researchers in Italy studied how women’s menstrual cycles affect their sense of smell by testing subjects ability to detect scents at six different points over the course of a month. The results showed that women get a hyper-sensitive sense of smell during ovulation. However, after taking contraceptive pills, subjects lost this hyper-sensitivity after only three months. It’s now thought that women’s heightened sense of smell during ovulation is linked to their perception of what they find attractive in a potential partner.
6. Drinking Coffee Can Reduce Suicidal Tendencies
In a massive study that monitored close to 200,000 people over the course of 20 years, it was found that people who consumed as little as one cup of coffee a day dramatically reduced their risk of suicide by as much as 50 percent. Researchers believe that the caffeine in coffee acts as a mild anti-depressant by boosting the brain’s production of certain neurotransmitters. The problem is that too much caffeine will actually make you worse off than no caffeine at all. A separate study conducted in Finland concluded that drinking over seven cups of coffee a day actually leads to increased risk of self-harm and suicide. Apparently moderation is key when it comes to using caffeine to combat depression.
5. Music Affects How You Enjoy Food
Usually, if you’re out having meal at a restaurant and find the food tastes terrible, your first thought is to blame the chef. But research now suggests that the things we listen to while we’re eating can actually have an impact on our overall level of satisfaction.
In 2012, researchers in Illinois went to a fast food restaurant and divided it into two sections. In one section they played some soft, relaxing music, while conditions in the other section were left as they found them. After observing people in both sections, the researchers asked diners to rate their enjoyment of the food. It was found that people sitting in the section with music ate less and enjoyed their food significantly more than people sitting in the un-altered section, who seemed to think less of their meal despite eating the whole thing. So the next time you find yourself unimpressed with the food you ordered, before you ream out the chef, perhaps you should ask the manager to put on a little smooth jazz.
4. Stress Levels Influence Who You Find Attractive
Most people have a certain “type” when it comes to what they find attractive in a prospective partner. But if you’ve ever wondered why it is that you might prefer blondes to brunettes or beards to clean-shaven, it turns out that the amount of stress you feel can play a significant role in who you find attractive.
Researchers from Newcastle University in the United Kingdom conducted an interesting and somewhat cruel study in 2012 that involved making over 80 men as stressed out as possible. Just as the men were reaching their breaking point they were shown 10 photos of women ranging in weight from skinny to obese and asked to rate their attractiveness. As it turns out, the men in the stressed-out group were more likely to find the heavier women attractive than men in the control group who were in a relaxed state. This research falls in line with another similar study which proposed that men who are under a lot of pressure gravitate toward weightier women. It’s now thought that these perceptions could be an evolutionary remnant, since high stress levels were once predominantly associated with food scarcity, and heavier women typically have larger breasts that men find more attractive when they’re in a state of hunger.
3. Thinking About Money Can Change Your Moral Values
If you consider to be person of sound moral values, you might want to steer clear of jobs in the financial sector. Recent studies show that just thinking about money can lead you to unethical decisions and behavior.
A 2013 study carried out by Harvard researchers had test subjects engage in a series of word games followed by some business-related activities. During the word game portion, subjects in the experimental group were subconsciously exposed to various money-related words, while subjects in the control group were given neutral phrases. After the word game, all the subjects were asked to make business decisions that incorporated some sort of moral component. Those who were exposed to money-related words, like “buy,” “spend,” or “cost,” freely disregarded their morals in favor of deception, even when there was no apparent advantage to be gained from lying. Just the thought of money seemed to be all it took to make them unscrupulous to the point that lying seemed justifiable. Maybe that’s why corruption always seems to be rampant on Wall Street.
2. Fast Food Can Diminish Your Appreciation for Art and Beauty
Last year, researchers in Toronto tested the effects that fast food has on our ability to appreciate some of the finer things in life. An experimental group of participants were shown some pictures of fast food followed by pictures of beautiful scenery while a control group was shown only beautiful scenery. Both groups were then asked to gauge how much enjoyment they derived from looking at the scenery pictures. Nearly everyone who had seen pictures of fast food beforehand rated their enjoyment as significantly lower than those who hadn’t.
Researchers later conducted a similar experiment but substituted a piece of opera music in place of the beautiful pictures and the outcome was the same. The people who had images of fast food lingering in their mind seemed to enjoy the music less than people who had been shown neutral images before listening. The authors of the study suggest that this effect is likely due to our minds unconsciously linking convenient things, such as fast food, with impatience. So, when thoughts of fast food are in our head, we consequently feel like don’t have time to enjoy abstract or intangible things such as artistic excellence.
1. Watching Certain TV Shows Can Make You More Sexist
It might sound crazy to think that our views and opinions could be easily swayed just by watching a few hours of TV, but according to some recent research published in the Journal of Communication, even watching a single episode of certain programs can slant our attitude and make us more sexist.
To demonstrate this, researchers took a group of 150 students and showed each of them one of three shows: a horror show where a passive female character gets abused, an episode of Gilmore Girls (the control stimulus), or an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (a show that features a strong female lead). After viewing, participants were asked to share their thoughts on the roles of males and females.
Unsurprisingly, they found that those who watched the woman get abused in the horror show had a lesser opinion of women in general and were more likely to make sexist remarks than the people who watched the other shows—demonstrating that the things we watch can indeed have an effect on our outlook of the world.