Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Who Bounces Back Best from Job Loss?

I've been there.

I lost two jobs in a row in my 20's.  Neither was really my fault (in one case, I accused a vp of sexual harassment) and in the second, my boss accidentally stepped on the toes of her boss when hiring me.  But there I was, out of my second job in less than six months.

Fortunately, I went on to have success at my next job and this was just a bitter memory.  But why do some people recover from job loss, while others don't?

A new study by Syracuse University provides a deeper understanding of why some people recover after losing their work identity, while others languish and develops interventions that facilitate recovery from job loss, according to newswise.com.

“It can be a devastating loss of identity when someone loses a job they’ve held for decades,” says Trenton Williams, assistant professor of entrepreneurship at the Whitman School. “For some, the loss might come in the form of an injury, such as a professional athlete, but for others, such as an entrepreneur whose business didn’t succeed, it might signal a failure. We examined two paths that someone in this position could take – a positive and negative journey.”

The pathway a person chooses depends on his or her decision-making orientation, according to the researchers. Some can constructively move forward, engaging in “work identity play” to constructively explore different opportunities and identities, until transitioning to more formal identity construction that helps them settle on a professional identity that is right for them.

Others remain in a deconstructive state, where they cannot get past the perception that the failure of a lost identity means their total failure as a person. (I suffered from that, a little.)  At best, they languish in a deconstructive state and at worst, they become depressed, much like what happens when a person experiences a traumatic loss.

Those who remain in a deconstructive state may continue to do things that harm them.  Trying to prevent future losses, they may find it difficult to take risks and they may be unlikely to try new things. Those who are risk takers are more likely to seek out help and resources and get themselves back on their feet. The key, according to the researchers, is the time spent in each phase of the journey.

“You can experiment and network in a non-targeted way at first and that is very healthy,” says Williams. “But at some point you have to focus and outline a clearer process. And those who have the education and support, as well as the belief that they can take risks, are the most likely to pull themselves up after experiencing a devastating job loss.”


Monday, May 2, 2016

Wait Before You Retweet That. You're Probably Going to Forget It.

How's this for crazy?

Chances are, you don't remember what you just retweeted.

Now we're not talking about the normal memory lapses -- where you put the keys, your glasses and your toddler (just kidding).  But newswise.com reports that retweeting or otherwise sharing information creates a “cognitive overload” that interferes with learning and retaining what you’ve just seen.

 I can totally relate.

"Most people don’t post original ideas any more. You just share what you read with your friends,” says Qi Wang, professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell University. “But they don’t realize that sharing has a downside. It may interfere with other things we do.”

Wang and colleagues in China conducted experiments showing that “retweeting” interfered with learning and memory, both online and off.

At computers in a laboratory setting, two groups were presented with a series of messages from Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter. After reading each message, members of one group had options either to repost or go on to the next message. The other group was given only the “next” option.

After finishing a series of messages, the students were given an online test on the content of those messages. Those in the repost group offered almost twice as many wrong answers and often demonstrated poor comprehension. What they did remember they often remembered poorly, Wang reported. “For things that they reposted, they remembered especially worse,” she added, according to newswise.com.

The researchers theorized that reposters were suffering from “cognitive overload.” When there is a choice to share or not share, the decision itself consumes cognitive resources, Wang explained.

 In a second test, after viewing a series of Weibo messages, the students were given an unrelated paper test on their comprehension of a New Scientist article.

Again, participants in the no-feedback group outperformed the reposters. Subjects also completed a Workload Profile Index, in which they were asked to rate the cognitive demands of the message-viewing task. The results confirmed a higher cognitive drain for the repost group.

“The sharing leads to cognitive overload, and that interferes with the subsequent task,” Wang said. “In real life when students are surfing online and exchanging information and right after that they go to take a test, they may perform worse,” she suggested.

So next time you have to present at a meeting, or take a test, maybe shut off your smart phone first.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Women, Been Cheated On? You're Actually the Winner

It was probably one of the most painful experiences in my young life.  A man I was deeply in love with cheated on me.   And he wound up marrying the woman he cheated on me with.

But now a new study is saying that I was the winner (though not if you include the fact that he cheated on his wife, as he was only separated, with me).  Yeah, he was a real dog.

Researchers say that women who are cheated on "win," while the cheating ones "lose."   Women who lose their unfaithful mate to another woman actually win in the long run, according to new research from Binghamton University.

I went on to have many more relationships and have been happily married for over 20 years.  (I would never have met my husband if I'd stayed with that one.)

"Our thesis is that the woman who ‘loses’ her mate to another woman will go through a period of post-relationship grief and betrayal, but come out of the experience with higher mating intelligence that allows her to better detect cues in future mates that may indicate low mate value. Hence, in the long-term, she ‘wins,’” said Craig Morris, research associate at Binghamton University and lead author of the study. “The ‘other woman,' conversely, is now in a relationship with a partner who has a demonstrated history of deception and, likely, infidelity. Thus, in the long-term, she ‘loses.’"

In the case of the "other woman" in my life, I believe she is still married to my old boyfriend (even though he called and sent me flowers and wrote to me for a time, after the breakup), so I'm not sure if that's really true for everyone. 

The web site reports that research on the effects of mate loss has focused on a breakup’s short-term consequences, such as emotional distress, but the long-term effects to mate loss have not been previously explored.

In the study, researchers from Binghamton University and University College London anonymously surveyed more than 5,000 participants in 96 countries, the largest-ever study on relationship dissolution, particularly as regards to cross-cultural experiences and age variation.

"Their findings show that there are consequences of female intrasexual mate competition that may be both evolutionarily adaptive and also beneficial in terms of personal growth, and that may expand beyond mating and into other realms of personal development," newswise.com notes.

Morris, a biocultural anthropologist and evolutionist, has highlighted how certain breakups seem to hit people very hard in past research. This new research highlights the ways in which humans – women, in particular – have adapted to cope with breakups.

“If we have evolved to seek out and maintain relationships, then it seems logical that there would be evolved mechanisms and responses to relationship termination, as over 85% of individuals will experience at least one in their lifetime),” said Morris. 

Want to Get Fit? It Only Takes a Minute, Say Some

Face it.  We've heard it all.

Do 10 sit-ups in 10 minutes and lose 30 pounds.  Walk a quarter mile and have the heart of a 20-year-old.  

Now they're saying one minute of exercise can do it.

According to newswise.com, it may be one minute but it's a minute of vigorous, heart-thumping exercise.  You know, the kind where you think you're going to have a heart attack.  This happened to me recently on the arc trainer, what seems like a stair-climbing elliptical (I have yet to figure out what exactly it is, but what I do know is it's the only exercise I can do 10 minutes of and feel like my blood pressure has shot off the charts).

Researchers at McMaster University have found that a single minute of very intense exercise produces health benefits similar to longer, traditional endurance training.

“This is a very time-efficient workout strategy,” says Martin Gibala, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster and lead author on the study. “Brief bursts of intense exercise are remarkably effective.”

Scientists set out to determine how sprint interval training (SIT) compared to moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT), as recommended in public health guidelines. They examined key health indicators including cardiorespiratory fitness and insulin sensitivity, a measure of how the body regulates blood sugar.

A total of 27 sedentary men were recruited and assigned to perform three weekly sessions of either intense or moderate training for 12 weeks, or to a control group that did not exercise.

The McMaster team has previously shown that the SIT protocol, which involved three 20-second ‘all-out’ cycle sprints, was effective for boosting fitness. The workout totaled just 10 minutes, including a 2-minute warm-up and 3-minute cool down, and two minutes of easy cycling for recovery between the hard sprints.
The new study compared the SIT protocol with a group who performed 45 minutes of continuous cycling at a moderate pace, plus the same warm-up and cool down. After 12 weeks of training, the results were remarkably similar, even though the MICT protocol involved five times as much exercise and a five-fold greater time commitment.

“Most people cite ‘lack of time’ as the main reason for not being active”, according to Gibala. “Our study shows that an interval-based approach can be more efficient — you can get health and fitness benefits comparable to the traditional approach, in less time.”

If you can survive it.  


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Forget Something? Draw It First

I forgot what I was going to write about.

Oh, yeah.  I should have drawn it.

A new study says if you need to remember something, forget the memorizing of the first letters of the word it starts with -- like, you want to get apples so think America or accessories (my favorite), to put the "A" in your mind, and hopefully, you will link it with apples when you go to the grocery store.  Oh, wait.  The word for that is mnemonic.

 Researchers at the University of Waterloo have found that drawing pictures of information that needs to be remembered is a strong and reliable strategy to enhance memory.

"We pitted drawing against a number of other known encoding strategies, but drawing always came out on top," said the study's lead author, Jeffrey Wammes, PhD candidate in the Department of Psychology, at newswise.com. "We believe that the benefit arises because drawing helps to create a more cohesive memory trace that better integrates visual, motor and semantic information."

I think that probably means that drawing it makes it stick in your mind.

Student participants were given a list of simple, easily drawn words, such as "apple." The students were given 40 seconds to either draw the word, or write it out repeatedly. They were then given a filler task of classifying musical tones to facilitate the retention process. Finally, the researchers asked students to freely recall as many words as possible from the initial list in just 60 seconds.

"We discovered a significant recall advantage for words that were drawn as compared to those that were written," said Wammes. "Participants often recalled more than twice as many drawn than written words. We labelled this benefit 'the drawing effect,' which refers to this distinct advantage of drawing words relative to writing them out."

In variations of the experiment in which students drew the words repeatedly, or added visual details to the written letters, such as shading or other doodles, the results remained unchanged. Memory for drawn words was superior to all other alternatives. Drawing led to better later memory performance than listing physical characteristics, creating mental images, and viewing pictures of the objects depicted by the words.

So if you forget what you were going to remember (like me), guess you're out of luck.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

If You're Too Harsh a Parent, Your Kid May Suffer, Health-Wise, Down the Line

I admit it, I'm a pushover for a parent.

Fortunately, I got a good kid in the lottery (at least, most of the time), so I've rarely had to discipline him (well, unless you call locking him in his room when he was little and misbehaved, but then I went in my room and cried).  Both my husband and I came from families with very harsh parents and now a new study is saying the harsher you are, the more likely your kid will grow up to maybe not be in such great health, and could become obese, as well.

New research shows harsh parenting may increase a child’s risk for poor physical health and obesity as they get olde, according to newswise.com. And attempts by one parent to counterbalance the harsh behavior are not always effective in lessening that risk. 

Researchers found the link from harsh parenting to physical health is buffered by a warm and nurturing coparent. However, when they measured the effect on body mass index, the health risk of harsh parenting increased as warmth from the other parent increased.

 “Harshness leads to problems with physical health, and no matter how hard a spouse tries they may not be able to erase those effects,” researchers say. “Instead of saying, ‘I’m the law and my wife is the gospel’ or something like that, better to acknowledge that in terms of harshness, your spouse is not going to be a buffer for the child, so behave responsibly.”

Both Larry and I had mothers that pretty much just stayed out of the picture when our fathers went wild.  So we didn't really have the "good cop" to balance out the "bad cop."

Harsh parenting was defined in the study as parents who reject, coerce, are physically aggressive and are self-centered. No parent in this sample was observed hitting their adolescent, but Thomas Schofield, lead author and an assistant professor of human development and family studies at Iowa State University, says there were other signs of physical aggression, such as pinching and pushing.

Schofield says harsh parenting creates a chronic stressful environment that children can be exposed to for nearly two decades. This exposure can have a lasting effect on the developing brain during childhood and early adolescence, he adds. Other research shows there are negative biological responses – chronic release of hormones, inflammation and lower cardiovascular reactivity – that can result from chronic stress.

Most parents want what’s best for their child and may not recognize or think their behavior is overly harsh. Their parenting skills often reflect how they were raised, Schofield says. The average person wants to believe their parents’ behavior – even if it was harsh or aggressive – was for their own good or at the very least benign. Schofield says this belief makes it hard for some parents to change harsh behavior, such as spanking or extreme timeouts.

“We’re fighting against that emotional connection to our own caregiver, who parented us that way,” Schofield says. “If we accept that the behavior is damaging, we have to accept that our parent who loved us did something that may have been bad for us. It’s not a complicated idea, but there’s just too much emotion in the way.”

Larry and I both have struggled hard not to repeat the type of parenting we had growing up.  Maybe that's partly why I'm such a (relatively) easy-going parent.  But as I said, I've been lucky.  I was blessed with a child who pretty much does what he's told, gets his homework done on time and now that he's a teen, shows good judgment most of the time.  So maybe it's been okay that I'm lazy!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Can Kids Kill Your Career?

I admit, the headline caught me.  "Are Children Career Killers?"

This was a study conducted by Washington University in St. Louis and the results?  Women should wait till after 30 to have children if they want career growth, according to newswise.com.

I'm not so sure I agree with that.  Now, most women don't wait till their mid-40s like I did, but the thinking is that, for college graduates and even those without a college degree, researchers found lower lifetime incomes for women who gave birth for the first time at age 30 or younger. The hit was particularly stark for women without college degrees who had their first children before age 25.

"The findings highlight the financial trade-offs women make when considering their fertility and career decisions,” the web site quotes Man Yee (Mallory) Leung, a postdoctoral research associate at Washington University School of Medicine. “Other studies have focused on the effect of children on women’s wages, but ours is the first to look at total labor income from ages 25 to 60 as it relates to a woman’s age when she has her first baby.”

 I took time off after having my son, and then was diagnosed with breast cancer when he was 3, and again when he was 5.  So that pretty much wiped me out of the labor market for quite some time, between surgeries and treatment.  When I was ready to go back, the market wasn't interested.

I had quite a few years where I pounded on doors, to no avail, and then, out of the blue, two summers ago, a company contacted and hired me.  I'm pretty sure that won't happen again, but I didn't think it would happen once!

Back when I was in the corporate world, no female executive (of whom there weren't too many) had children.  Most of them weren't even married.  Today it's a different story, of course (look at Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo, pregnant with twins, after having her first child shortly before taking the reins at the company).  We won't go into the fact that many think she sank the company.

For this study, Leung and colleagues analyzed work experience, birth statistics and other household data of nearly 1.6 million Danish women ages 25-60 from 1995 to 2009 to estimate how a woman’s lifetime earnings are influenced by her age at birth of first child.

“Children do not kill careers, but the earlier children arrive the more their mother’s income suffers. There is a clear incentive for delaying,” says Raul Santaeulalia-Llopis, assistant professor of economics in Arts & Sciences at Washington University. “Our main result is that mothers lose between 2 and 2.5 years of their labor income if they have their first children before the age of 25.”

Researchers arrived at these estimates by calculating average annual salaries for each woman and using this average as a measuring stick for both short- and long-term income losses associated with age at birth of first child. Income losses were estimated for women who had their first children before age 25 and for each subsequent three-year age range (ie. 25-to-28), with the last range being 40 years of age or older.

Researchers also found:

  • College-educated women who had children before age 25 lose about two full years of average annual salary over their careers; women in this category with no college degree lose even more, forgoing about 2.5 years of average annual salary during their working careers.
  • Women who first give birth before age 28, regardless of college education, consistently earn less throughout their careers than similarly educated women with no children.
  • College-educated women who delay having their first children until after age 31 earn more over their entire careers than women with no children.

The researchers noted these income trends while studying the effects of in vitro fertilization on women’s labor and fertility choices. Here, they found a general shift toward women having a first child later in life, with a greater proportion of college-educated women pushing first birth into the 28-34 age range.

 "The fact that highly productive women who have children earlier enter a lower income path is not only a loss for them, but for the entire society,” says Santaeulalia-Llopis. “If children are shutting down women’s career growth and these pervasive effects vanish after the mid-30s, then we should start taking seriously the case for employer-covered fertility treatments. But we need to dig deeper to establish causation and assess costs and benefits.”

So, are we penalized for having kids?  No one really wants to come right out and say it, but it sure looks that way.