social sciences

Psychology is all around you

Not only in the literal sense, when you engage with people or don’t engage with people. It’s more than that. As it isn’t just internal stimuli that determine your actions, it’s also external stimuli. It’s mostly an interaction between the two. Our internal stimuli, such as the process of picking out an outfit for the day, are heavily influenced by external stimuli. What we buy at a supermarket might depend on how the products are positioned, or the environment you’re in. Psychology is all around you. Here I will list some examples how you are influenced by your environment and therefore demonstrate the importance of psychology.

The weather
You might or might not be aware of the effect of weather on your mood. To find out if different dimensions of the weather can have an affect on us, researchers collected 2 year’s worth of Tweets. Looking at the Tweeted content and the weather on that particular day, the found that, for instance, rain can put us in a negative mood.¹
What’s even more interesting is that people attribute their negative feelings to bad weather. In a study, people were asked to rate their moods. Those who were in a good mood left it at that and didn’t attribute it to anything in particular. However, those in a bad mood attributed it to the weather. Thus, actively trying to seek external causes for their feelings.²

Supermarkets. There are patterns in human behavior when it comes to supermarkets. For instance, researchers found that a crowd attracts more people. When there are other shoppers present at a certain aisle, it attracts new shoppers. But these new shoppers are less likely to buy something from that store zone. The researchers speculate that people change their behaviors in the presence of other shoppers. They are less likely to make unnecessary purchases and engage in fewer exploratory behaviors.³
Tricks. Retailers try to influence your buying behavior, preferably to increase their sales. They can do so by creating attractive labels for their products or interesting advertisements telling you their product is a necessity.  Another way is to elicit certain feelings among their customers. That is demand accelerates demand. This means that when we know that something is highly wanted by other consumers, we want it too. Researchers looked at shelves in a supermarket and found that people are more likely to opt for the ‘scarce’ product. When faced with two similar products, you’re gonna choose the one with the partially emptied shelf.4
Learn more about how we make choices and what happens if we’re faced with too many choices.

Other people
The presence of other people has a huge effect on our behaviors. One of those effects is called the bystander effect. According to this effect, the mere presence of others changes how we behave. This effect is often studied in situations were strangers need help. Why when someone falls down do people sometimes fail to help this person? Or even worse, there have been multiple cases of fatal cases and no one interfering. This is most likely due to the diffusion of responsibility. People might think: ‘why should I be the one to help? there are others, they can help too’. Or they might look at other people’s faces to determine the severity of the case. They see that everyone seems indifferent and decide that it’s not that bad. But unbeknownst to them, everyone is looking at each other for cues if it’s severe enough that they should step in.5
An interesting experiment on how others influence our behaviors is the groundbreaking research by Asch.People were put into groups and had to publically answer easy questions. For instance, the saw three lines and had to indicate which line was similar to a fourth line displayed on the side. This is an incredibly easy task and almost impossible to get wrong. However, each participant was put into a group of confederates. So they were surrounded by a group of actors. The group would purposively and collectively pick the wrong answer. The participants were very likely to go along with the answer the group gave. Even though they knew it was wrong. But people are afraid to stand out most of the time.
Learn more about helping behaviors.

As you can see, many of the patterns in human behavior are constantly studied by psychologists. These theories can help explain human behavior. People often think they’re unique in the choices they make or their actions. But it turns out, we’re not so different after all. And the proof is all around us.

1. Li, J., Wang, X., & Hovy, E. (2014, November). What a nasty day: Exploring mood-weather relationship from twitter. In Proceedings of the 23rd ACM International Conference on Conference on Information and Knowledge Management (pp. 1309-1318). ACM.
2. Schwarz, N., & Clore, G. L. (1983). Mood, misattribution, and judgments of well-being: Informative and directive functions of affective states. Journal of personality and social psychology, 45(3), 513.
3. Hui, S. K., Bradlow, E. T., & Fader, P. S. (2009). Testing behavioral hypotheses using an integrated model of grocery store shopping path and purchase behavior. Journal of consumer research, 36(3), 478-493.
4. Van Herpen, E., Pieters, R., & Zeelenberg, M. (2009). When demand accelerates demand: Trailing the bandwagon. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 19(3), 302-312.
5. Latane, B., & Darley, J. M. (1968). Group inhibition of bystander intervention in emergencies. Journal of personality and social psychology, 10(3), 215.
6. Asch, S.E. (1951). Effects of group pressure on the modification and distortion of judgments. In H. Guetzkow (Ed.), Groups, leadership and men(pp. 177–190). Pittsburgh, PA:Carnegie Press

social sciences

Romantic love: being in love

Romantic love has been the basis for many of the things happening around us. It has made its way into a myriad of aspects of our lives, including entertainment, consumption, and societal expectations. In a society where monogamy is favored, the idea of having to meet someone and settle down is often perpetuated by family members, friends, and coworkers. While many people want to know who others fancy and like, it’s still a bit of an embarrassing topic to talk about. Or when someone is head over heals, they might not be able to shut up about the person in question.
But what causes this strange mix of emotions and feelings that can push us to do weird things. It has even been suggested that love affects our brains like a drug.

Relationship with parents affects romantic love
Your childhood can affect the way you experience romantic love later in life. To study this, researchers looked at three attachment styles: secure, avoidant, anxious/ambivalent. These are ways in which children are attached to their parents. The secure attachment style is seen as a positive predictor of future relationships. This means establishing physical contact with the infant and responding to their cries. Children who are attached in an anxious/ambivalent sense tend to protest. And the avoidant attachment style is characterized by detachment.
In terms of romantic love, this means that securely attached people experience trust and other positive emotions than the other two attachment styles.
Those who fall in the avoidant category tend to doubt the existence of romantic love and wonder if happily ever after with a partner exists.
While anxious/ambivalent types do fall in love frequently, they do have trouble finding true love. They do report experiencing more loneliness than the other types.¹

Romantic love can be healthy
Having close ties with a person can have a positive effect on your health. It can help life satisfaction and it might decrease the risk of depression. However, it should also be noted that those who never married are better off than those who are divorced. Being divorced or broken up increases your risk of depression.²

Underlying mechanisms of romantic love
Most of the research seems to point out that there is no specific area in the brain responsible for all the emotions and feelings we experience when we’re in love. It is rather a set of systems involved in romantic love. Supposedly, neurohormones affect whether we might be monogamous or not. An experiment carried out on rodents showed that Vasopressin stimulated monogamy in males, whereas oxytocin had this effect on females.
From an evolutionary perspective, the dopamine (makes us feel happy/satisfied) and oxytocin (the cuddle hormone) rushes we get in the early stages of romantic love helps us imprint positive characteristics of a partner.
CRH (hormone) plays a role in feeling down when we separate from our love. This helps us stick to our partner.
Pheromones affect our mate choice. Possibly to find mates with a dissimilar immune system, as two different immune systems would create an advantage for the offspring. Two non-identical systems will be able to provide genes that can ward off more types of diseases, compared to two similar systems.²

Love can make us go crazy?
Researchers have found similarities between those who suffer from Obssessive Complusive Disorder (OCD) and those in the early stages of romantic love. OCD is a mental disorder which causes people to repeatedly engage in obsessive disorders. Such as constantly checking whether they locked their front door, or constantly having to switch on the lights in everyone room they enter. Since those in love tend to obsess over a person, researchers decided to look for a link between the two, and they found on on an underlying biological level. They found the same low density in serotonin (5-HT) transporters in both those in love and those suffering from OCD.³

1. Hazan, C., & Shaver, P. (1987). Romantic love conceptualized as an attachment process. Journal of personality and social psychology52(3), 511.
2. Aron, A., Fisher, H., Mashek, D. J., Strong, G., Li, H., & Brown, L. L. (2005). Reward, motivation, and emotion systems associated with early-stage intense romantic love. Journal of neurophysiology, 94(1), 327-337.
3. Marazziti, D., Akiskal, H. S., Rossi, A., & Cassano, G. B. (1999). Alteration of the platelet serotonin transporter in romantic love. Psychological medicine, 29(03), 741-745.

social sciences

Psychological tricks of the mind #1: recalling information

Unfortunately, we can’t objectively experience our environment. You’ll quickly notice this when talking to several people who went through the same thing, everyone filters the world around them differently. We also remember things differently. But we’re all susceptible to the same fallacies. Some of these fallacies shape the way we think about thinks. This can make us see and believe supernatural things or make us fall for superstitions. This is because we tend to recall things according to the availability heuristic.

We’re constantly filtering all the information we receive: sounds, words, visuals, images, etc. For instance, when we look at a skyline for awhile, most of us can’t perfectly recreate the image by drawing. You’ll probably end up with the most ‘important’ features, such as the outlines of the buildings. Each clouds’ positions or the small windows you won’t be able to remember. This is because the brain wants to be efficient in its information storing. It’s imperative, from an evolutionary standpoint, that we remember all the important stimuli. Often these are negative things. Negative things, such as losing money or getting insulted hurt us more than the joy we experience from getting the opposite. This is because we want to avoid negative outcomes as much as possible.

We tend to remember information that we think is important to us. But this doesn’t always give us an accurate representation what is happening in our lives. The selective way we recall and remember things are explained by the availability bias or heuristic. This is easily demonstrated by an example of visiting a medium. A medium can say a hundred things and half of them might be wrong. But the other half that is sort of applicable to use we remember. We quickly disregard everything that isn’t applicable. We might leave the medium feeling like they knew exactly what they were talking about, even if their hit rate was only 50%.

This bias shapes our lives in a lot of other different ways. It influences what we’re afraid of. The media can show us a lot of shocking imagery of events that are quite rare. But because we think it’s shocking and such events are so extensively covered we assume it’s very common. Thus the available information stored in our memories is filled with scary imagery of all the dangers that can happen to us. Think about a number of people that die in a fire every year. Almost every day we’re confronted with news of buildings catching fire and people dying as a result. But it turns out 0.55 out of 100,000 people died in a fire according to the mortality rates of 2002. People are more likely to die because of diseases like measles. Slowly, people are also starting to realize that you’re more likely to die as a result of being in a car crash as opposed to dying in a plane crash. But the imagery of planes crashing are more shocking and therefore are much easier to remember,

Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1973). Availability: A heuristic for judging frequency and probability. Cognitive psychology5(2), 207-232.

social sciences

Scarcity principle: why we want the limited edition

What we want to have is not only influenced by how much we like the product but also how much others like it. Economics and the market are often explained in terms of demand and supply, which in theory can determine the price of the product. But studying demand and supply is also imperative to psychologists, as there are many underlying cognitive factors in buying products. In this post, I will discuss one of those factors, the scarcity principle.

Running low on supply
Apparently, we use others’ preferences as signals to find out whether a product is good or not. When we walk through the supermarket aisle, we use quick mental heuristics (a rule of thumb). One of those heuristics is the scarcity principle. Seeing that there are only a few products left tells us that the demand is high, therefore the product must be good, right? This is what several experiment settings have found. Not only telling consumers that ‘there are a few left!’ but seeing the visual display of a few more wine bottles left can trigger people to opt for that particular wine type/brand.¹
Unfortunately, I don’t know whether retailers actively put this into practice by intentionally filling aisles with small amounts of products. As supermarkets, for instance, can use this to up the sales by continuously stocking a few items at a time.

But what about limited edition?
Every now and then manufacturers decide to only produce a few product and market it as ‘limited edition’. Big brands will create unique shoes, perfumes, phone designs, or watches which often sell for high prices. However, this is different from the aforementioned wine bottle situation in a supermarket. Consumers that want these types of products probably don’t want it because ‘there’s only a few left, everyone wants them’. But there are more underlying factors at play. Limited editions are often used for conspicuous products.  These are products to show off one’s status. Thus buying limited editions is to display uniqueness, because you’re one of the few who owns a specific product.² But as for the other side of the scarcity principle, people want a product because everyone else wants it, so it must be good.

1. Van Herpen, E., Pieters, R., & Zeelenberg, M. (2014). When less sells more or less: The scarcity principle in wine choice. Food Quality and Preference36, 153-160.
2. Gierl, H., & Huettl, V. (2010). Are scarce products always more attractive? The interaction of different types of scarcity signals with products’ suitability for conspicuous consumption. International Journal of Research in Marketing27(3), 225-235.

social sciences

Romantic attraction: what do we look for in a partner?

There are many ideas on what attracts people to each other romantically. Some people are convinced that opposites attract holds true. As such a couple would perfectly balance each other out. According to this principle,  a person who is very timid and an outgoing person would make a perfect match. Or people might have theories, regarding looks that individuals search for others who are just as attractive as them. This concept is labeled ‘being in someone’s league’, meaning you have a chance of making a successful move one someone who is just as attractive as you are. Earlier I wrote a post about what men and women find attractive about each other, from an evolutionary perspective. But these a very generalized ideas, what about individual attraction?

  • First of all, in terms of romantic attraction, men perceive attraction as a more important feature than women.¹ This is what studies,  time and time again, seem to find in terms of gender differences and attraction.
  • For females, height was deemed more important, with the male-taller norm as the standard.²
  • Using speed-dating settings for research, it was found that people ended up being more attracted to their potential partner when they knew that the partner already liked them. So knowing someone is attracted to us, can make us feel more attracted to them.³
  • There seem to be robust findings for the similarity principle. People like those who are like them. Opposites attract was quickly regarded as folk wisdom, similarity is what influences who we form relationships with, whether it be romantic or platonic. However, again using speed-dating settings, researchers found that it’s perceived similarity is what matters and not actual similarity. If we feel as if we are similar to others, this makes us feel more attracted to them.4
  • Interestingly, while knowing that someone likes you can increase your own attraction, uncertainty can also have an effect. Not knowing whether someone is attracted to you can ultimately increase your attraction towards that individuals. As you will spend more time thinking about that person.5

1. Feingold, A. (1990). Gender differences in effects of physical attractiveness on romantic attraction: A comparison across five research paradigms.
2. Pierce, C. A. (1996). Body height and romantic attraction: A meta-analytic test of the male-taller norm. Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, 24(2), 143-149.
3. Luo, S., & Zhang, G. (2009). What leads to romantic attraction: Similarity, reciprocity, security, or beauty? Evidence from a speed‐dating study. Journal of personality, 77(4), 933-964.
4. Tidwell, N. D., Eastwick, P. W., & Finkel, E. J. (2013). Perceived, not actual, similarity predicts initial attraction in a live romantic context: Evidence from the speed‐dating paradigm. Personal Relationships, 20(2), 199-215.
5. Whitchurch, E. R., Wilson, T. D., & Gilbert, D. T. (2011). “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not…” Uncertainty Can Increase Romantic Attraction. Psychological Science, 22(2), 172-175.

social sciences

How to deal with stress

Awhile ago I wrote a post on dealing with anxiety. Unfortunately, stress is another negative emotion people experience in their daily lives. While stress can force us to get things done and help us achieve goals, it can also impair us and cause health problems. Hormones involved in being in a stressed state can damage neurons in the brain(1). It affects our immune system, for instance, we can become more susceptible to colds(2). However, it is important to note that most of such consequences are related to chronic stress, which means being in a state of stress for longer periods of time.

In our modern world, there are many different situations which can affect our stress levels. Deadlines at work, school papers, paying the bills, maintaining relationships; each one of us experiences a myriad of stressors in a day. We might not be able to get rid of stress altogether, but we can try to find new ways to deal with it.

  • Having too much on your plate
    • Sometimes you have to say no. There are a lot of important things in our life we want to do. But we can’t do all of them. And if we did try to do all of them at once, we might end up failing at more things we anticipated. Quality over quantity. On the long term, it is more beneficial to focus on a few things, rather than devoting our time to a hundred things at once. We’re often unaware that many things can wait.
  • Get rid of the problem?
    • Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith. If something gives you chronic stress, it might be time to get rid of the problem. If you have to write a paper or take a course and you really can’t handle it with rest you got going on right now, maybe it would be better to try again next year or the next opportunity you get. Or maybe your work is severely affecting your mental health, you might want to consider quitting. Look for something that gives you more room to maintain your health.
  • Recognize your temporary emotions
    • Some things we can’t say no to. Not all of us have the privilege to postpone stressful situations that need our attention now, such as planning the funeral of a recently passed away loved one. Therefore, in such situations, it’s important to remember that it’s temporary. This isn’t the first stressful situation you’ve dealt it and it certainly won’t be the last. Remember you’ve tackled problems before and you will continue to do so.
  • Reach out
    • Others can help you. Whether it be to take off some of the load by helping you or to provide you with some moral support. Having your friends or family assure you that you can get through it might just be enough to get rid of some of the stress!
  • Don’t forget to focus on other important aspects
    • Remember to tend to other needs, such as nutrition and sleep. Temporary not eating well or not getting enough sleep for awhile is nothing to worry too much about. But don’t make it a habit. Also, try to convince yourself to get your daily nutritional needs. Emotional eating is a real thing and can be triggered in stressful times. Reaching for junk food might activate an endorphin release, due to the sugars(3). Endorphins make us feel good. We might also overeat, as feeling stuffed makes us feel tired and relaxed. However, you can also achieve this state of relaxation without overeating!
  • Take a break
    • If possible, take a break. Play a game (Sudoku, your favorite video game, a fun game app on your phone), watch TV, go for a walk, hang out with a friend. Moving away from the stressor might help you in the long run. Taking a small break will give you new energy you’ll need to take on your stressor.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others
    • If you feel stressed because you aren’t where you want to be in life school-wise, career-wise or anything else, it might be time to re-evaluate. Ask yourself why you need to be anywhere anyway. It’s not a race. The internet is filled with anecdotes of people who wrote their first best-selling book at 50, became a famous actor at 40, got the first real job they liked at 60 or finally overcame their fears at 38. There are only a few times opportunities will only present themselves once. With some out-of-the-box-thinking, you can still get where you need to be even if that means taking an alternative route.

1. Sapolsky, R. M. (1996). Stress, glucocorticoids, and damage to the nervous system: the current state of confusion. Stress, 1(1), 1-19.
2. Segerstrom, S. C., & Miller, G. E. (2004). Psychological stress and the human immune system: a meta-analytic study of 30 years of inquiry. Psychological bulletin, 130(4), 601.
3. Fortuna, J. L. (2010). Sweet preference, sugar addiction and the familial history of alcohol dependence: shared neural pathways and genes. Journal of psychoactive drugs, 42(2), 147-151.

social sciences

Are you genetically similar to your friends?

People pick their friends based on several factors including proximity and similarity. Proximity is of importance because we prefer stimuli we see often as opposed to stimuli we’re not familiar with (mere-exposure effect). This principle also holds for friendships. Apart from starting friendships with people, we’re regularly exposed to, it is also easier to maintain relationships with those nearby us. Similarity is imperative for creating bonds, as it gives us topics to talk about and ideas to agree on. We also understand those who are similar to us a lot better. But could these similarities among you and your friends indicate that you might also be genetically similar?

Research has found that this seems to be the case by looking at a sample of adolescents in the United States. Guo (2006) found that there might be a genetic basis for trait-specific similarities between friends. To analyze genetic differences and similarities, identical (monozygotic) and non-identical (dizygotic) twins are always added to the sample. Interestingly, Guo also found that identical twins were more likely to list their twin as their best friend, compared to non-identical twins. Maybe we can speculate here that because identical twins share more genetic similarities, they might have more trait-specific similarities, which is an important factor in friendship.

Looking at more twin studies, we can see the same result for partner choice as well. Rushton and Bons (2005) compared identical twins to non-identical twins. They found that identical twins had friends and spouses similar to that of their co-twin. Again, we can speculate that there must be an underlying genetic effect for friend and partner choice.

Guo, G. (2006). Genetic similarity shared by best friends among adolescents. Twin Research and Human Genetics, 9(01), 113-121.

Philippe Rushton, J., & Ann Bons, T. (2005). Mate Choice and Friendship in Twins: Evidence for Genetic Similarity. Psychological Science, 16(7), 555-559.

social sciences

Money does bring us happiness, depending on how you spend it

There is no denying we need money in order to survive within a capitalist system. In order to get food, shelter, clothing, warmth to be able to actively participate in society, we need some kind of income. But once we’ve reached the threshold of being able to meet these basic needs, we can actively spend money on what some might define as luxurious. For instance, this can be anywhere from candy, entertainment, cars, vacation, depending on your budget and preferences. In this article, I will discuss two ways of spending that can increase happiness or life satisfaction.

Materialistic vs experiential spending
Simply put, we can spend money on two different categories. We can buy a new car, this would be materialistic spending. Or we could book a vacation, and this would classify as experiential spending. A vacation is an experience that you can treasure as a memory. However, while this distinction is made, I would like to get a bit philosophical and point out that a car can also be seen as experiential spending. If you enjoy certain experiences with a car, such as going on road trips, it might not just be a materialistic investment. But, for the sake of the research I will discuss, cars are in this case materialistic.

It turns out we feel happier after experiential spending than materialistic spending. This is due to several reasons, we get used to materialistic spending, we remember experiential spending, and experiential spending is often spent with others (1). So if we bought a new painting for our living room, we will be used to it at some point, hanging there. It probably won’t bring us the same amount of happiness it did when we first hung it up. We also spent a great deal remembering our experiential purchases in comparison to our materialistic purchases. And lastly, we often spend time with others when we engage in experiential spending. Which makes us happier in general.

Spending money on others
The second way in which we can spend money is using it to buy things for others. This is referred to as prosocial spending. Researchers gave participants a small amount of money and either instructed them to spend it on themselves (personal spending) or to buy something for someone else (prosocial spending). And it turns out that those who engaged in prosocial spending ended up feeling happier (2).

1. Dunn, E. W., Gilbert, D. T., & Wilson, T. D. (2011). If money doesn’t make you happy, then you probably aren’t spending it right. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 21(2), 115-125.
2. Dunn, E. W., Aknin, L. B., & Norton, M. I. (2008). Spending money on others promotes happiness. Science, 319(5870), 1687-1688.

social sciences

Are people becoming more narcissistic?

People love to compare. And this includes looking at the differences between generations. It seems as if ‘millennials‘ are the new scapegoat. However, it’s difficult to define millennials, as different sources use different definitions of the word. Everyone born between approximately 1980 – 2000 are usually dubbed as this ‘new generation’. Thus, we’re talking about people between the ages of ~40-20 roughly. Interestingly, many of the critics often fall between in this age cohort. One of the most recurring critiques includes the supposed increase in selfishness and narcissism. Does taking selfies really indicate narcissism? What is narcissism and did it really increase over the years?

Has narcissism prevalence increased over the years?
Unfortunately, this is difficult to answer. This actually an issue for almost all mental health disorders. Psychology and attributing behaviors to disorders both have been gaining acceptance over the years. This means that we can’t actually accurately compare data from fifty years ago.

First, we lacked valid and reliable measurement tools for each disorder. Second, we lacked knowledge, more research still needs to be done to find out the incidence and implication of a mental disorder. Third, what behaviors are considered to be ‘not normal’ changes through history. Do we still use the same definition of narcissism? Fourth, subgroups of the population have been ignored in terms of mental health. For instance, it seems that more girls suffer from Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) than was estimated. This holds true for people with an ethnic background in Western countries as well, these groups are overlooked, their behaviors are more likely to be attributed to their personalities.

So does narcissism increase over the years? Researchers found it is actually a very stable trait and that it didn’t increase(1).

But what exactly is narcissistic personality disorder?
In order to have guidelines in terms of mental health disorders, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) was created. This book helps clinicians (e.g. psychologists) make sense of the problems their patients might have. And according to the DSM, the following symptoms are associated with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD):

  1. Grandiosity with expectations of superior treatment from others
  2. Fixated on fantasies of power, success, intelligence, attractiveness, etc.
  3. Self-perception of being unique, superior and associated with high-status people and institutions
  4. Needing constant admiration from others
  5. Sense of entitlement to special treatment and to obedience from others
  6. Exploitative of others to achieve personal gain
  7. Unwilling to empathize with others’ feelings, wishes, or needs
  8. Intensely envious of others and the belief that others are equally envious of them
  9. Pompous and arrogant demeanor

So are ‘millennial behaviors’ an indication of increased narcissism?
Younger people are overrepresented in statistics of internet use and social media use(2,3). So in order to successfully carry out ‘impression management,’ these ages might be more inclined to use social media. In real life, all ages engage in impression management. We want people to see us in a certain light, and when we find out they don’t see us they way we want them to, we will adjust our behaviors. If we want people to perceive us as smart, we might do our best to display behaviors that could signal intelligence. Social media can be an interesting environment for impression management. You can upload selfies that display your ‘good sides’. You can effectively tell a large group of people that you engage in charity work, get good grades, get promotions, go to cool parties, go on nice vacations, etc.

Since we have more control in online settings, we get to edit and think about what we post, we naturally show most of the good stuff. Does that make us narcissists? Probably not. Normal individuals engage in impression management in real life situations, just like we do online. Online there is more room for enhancement.

1. Grijalva, E., Newman, D. A., Tay, L., Donnellan, M. B., Harms, P. D., Robins, R. W., & Yan, T. (2015). Gender differences in narcissism: A meta-analytic review. Psychological bulletin, 141(2), 261.
2. Distribution internet use according to age
3. Distribution social media use according to age

social sciences

A sneak peek into North Korea

It is actually possible to go to North Korea for vacation. You will need to apply for a visa. Your trip, however, will most likely be highly restricted. You will have a curfew, you can’t leave your hotel at certain hours. And you can’t photograph everything you see, your camera will be checked upon leaving. You will be accompanied by a ‘tour guide’ at all times, so you can’t stray from the predetermined trip. Though, apparently the Chinese have a little bit more freedom and are allowed to drive cars.

One of the most famous hotels in Pyongyang is the Yanggakdo Hotel. If you’re interested in what it must be like staying there, I recommend you read the reviews on TripAdvisor. On average the hotel gets a ‘decent’ rating, though, reviewers often add ‘for North Korean standards’.
One of the reviewers explains:

“Whilst a lot is to be said for the fact this hotel is in the DPRK and all the perks that come with that this is by far one of the worst hotels I have stayed in. Nothing works, not the plugs, television or shower.”

Pyongyang seems to serve a purpose of displaying North Korea’s greatness. There are big skyscrapers, (fast food) restaurants, parks, and luxury stores. The restaurants’ customers or mostly those who are part of the elite, foreign diplomats, or tourists.

Luxury stores

The following video displays a POV of a tourist visiting a luxury store. Most of these goods aren’t available to the general public.

Fast food restaurants

It’s interesting to see the lady behind the counter use a calculator while taking the customers’ order. While it is supposed to be a fastfood restaurant, the service seems to be quite slow.

North Korean news… on YouTube?

North Korean news is interesting because it’s different from our news in the western world. It mostly consists of coverage of new construction projects. The construction and opening of Munsu Water Park were extensively covered by the news. It featured thousands of workers, building the new amusement park in absolute synchronization, using outdated methods of construction compared to western standards. North Korea had its own YouTube channel, Korean Central Television, on which it regularly uploaded (sometimes only hours apart) news, soap operas, and kids’ shows. However, YouTube took down the channel a few months ago.


North Korea has its own version of ‘Kpop’. The legend goes that Kim Jung-Il called for his country’s own girl band. The women are always wearing uniforms, oftentimes military-styled. They play the drums, electric guitars, keytars, synthesizers, and more! I have been told that their songs often feature lyrics about the Korean War, the Great Leader, and their accomplishments as ‘a self-sufficient’ nation. In February last year, they held a concert celebrating a rocket launch.


In this video, several defectors are interviewed and tell you all the good and bad things they experienced in their homeland.


There are many interesting documentaries that show us the insides of the regime. Including this 3-part series by Vice.

Sources: The Real North Korea (Lankov), Without You There Is No Us (Kim)