social sciences

How to deal with your anxiety

I have noticed that everyone experiences anxiety at one point in their lives. Whether it’s due to insecurity, pessimism or overall apathy. It could be caused by current events happening in your life or it might be linked to your disposition. If you can’t remember a time when you weren’t anxious or it influences your daily life, it might be time to do something about it. In this case, it would be a good idea to look for professional help. However, your anxiety could refrain you from taking this step. It is important to know that you can’t fix or deal with everything on your own! Mental problems are as serious as physical ones, and they are often related.

There could be different reasons for your anxiety, it could be that you’re about to do something important (such as a test), or your workload is too much to handle, anything changing the status quo (e.g. a divorce, being laid off, losing a loved one) you might be faced with insecurities that are hard to deal with. It is also entirely possible that you can’t even pinpoint what is causing you to feel anxious.

Here are important things to remember / strategies you could try to make your anxiety more bearable:

  1. Validate your feelings. It’s imperative to know that it’s entirely okay to feel anxious. Trying to suppress emotions can make you feel worse. You could even end up feeling anxious about feeling anxious. Therefore, acknowledge you feel this emotion.
  2. Take a small break. If it’s possible to do so, try to refrain from what is making you feel this way.  Though, in settings in which you need to participate to function in your daily life, make sure you do not refrain completely. Completely ignoring such settings will only make your situation worse (point 4). Taking a break is good for evaluating the situation and changing your thoughts and ideas, which could help you feel in control. In order to do so, you could use point 3.
  3. Engage in some cognitive behavioral therapy. This method will force you to change your thinking patterns by putting things in perspective. Take a look at this form. Go ahead and print it out if you want to practice.
    1. First, describe a situation which left you feeling anxious.
    2. Second, describe this feeling. How strong was it? Was it a mental feeling? Did you experience anything physical along with it? How would your rate it on a scale from 1-100?
    3. Third, describe the thoughts that were going through your head during that situations. Did it make the situation worse?
    4. Fourth, let’s fact check these thoughts. Are they true? Did they make sense in this situation?
    5. Fifth, come up with counterarguments for these thoughts. What evidence could indicate that you might be wrong?
    6. Sixth, combine both arguments into an alternative thought.
    7. Seventh, did the alternative thought change your feeling about the situation? Again, rate your emotions on a scale from 1-100. (I have provided an example at the bottom of this post).
  4. Don’t completely avoid situations that elicit anxiety if you need to engage in them in your daily life. If you’re dealing with social anxiety, it wouldn’t be a good idea to hide away at home and not participate in daily life. Also, we know that mere exposure can help people overcome fear. When someone stops interacting with settings that seem fearful to them, their anxiety will only become worse. People need to be regularly exposed to learn that the situation is not scary. Our psyche is incredible at forming associations. For instance, eating bad Chinese food once could make us not want to eat Chinese food ever again.
  5. If it won’t matter in five years, don’t spend more than five minutes on it. This is important to remember to put your situation into perspective. Think about all the small encounters you had in the past that had zero influence on where you are now. This applies to what is going on now as well. Many things we experience today will not mean the end of the world tomorrow. If you’ve been walking around on Earth for a couple of years, you already overcame many hurdles, so I’m sure you can take on some more.

Again, I would like to emphasize, you could be dealing with serious problems that need a professional. Please, seek help if it affects your functioning in daily life. We can sit out a cold, most of the time, you probably won’t need your doctor for that. However, if your cold symptoms persist and severely affect your life, a visit to the doctor would be a good idea. This is also applicable in terms of mental health.

Example using the cognitive behavioral therapy form, test anxiety:
A: When taking a test I started feeling very anxious and I blacked out. I suddenly couldn’t remember anything I had studied.
B: I felt very anxious, my heart was beating fast, and I started to get nervous. I would rate it an 80.
C: I thought it would never be able to pass this test, I’m never going to get my degree, I’m a failure.
D: Well, I suddenly couldn’t remember the answers. But I did study really heard.
E: I passed many of my other tests, so I guess this one shouldn’t be out of reach either. I studied for weeks, so maybe if I was calm I would’ve been able to answer all the questions.
F: I should be able to pass this test, it isn’t more difficult than any of the other tests I already passed. I did study, so I can pass it if it wasn’t for blacking out.
G: I feel less anxious after putting this situation into perspective. I feel a bit more confident for my resit. I would rate my anxiety about 50 now.

social sciences

A new form of cheating: Online Infidelity

Before the existence of a new virtual world online, people had to look around in the ‘wild’ if they desired to be unfaithful. However, the internet has definitely created easier access to many different services. In many parts of the world, it is possible to order a variety of foods online, which will ultimately be delivered to our doorsteps. But Maslow’s Pyramid contains more needs and wants that we feel we require. Other needs can also be requested or bought online, affection, attention, or sex. One could argue that this also opens the doors to cheating, due to the availability.

Why do people use the internet to cheat?
Researchers have looked at online infidelity by examining it using the ACE model. ACE being anonymity, convenience, and escape. People can remain anonymous while using chat rooms or apps to look for potential affairs. It has become quite convenient to look for cheating partners. Right now, websites exist specifically for the purpose to find an illicit relationship. And last, several studies have found that people engaging in such activities experience their ‘escape‘ as some kind of “high”.1
Another important aspect of anonymity is that people can make themselves more desirable. Online users can spend more time thinking about their responses and how they want to represent themselves. And in terms of rationalizing ‘cheating behavior’, users often feel as if they are not actually cheating when talking to others online, even if when the conversation contains sexual undertones. Many people seem to draw the line at physical contact, only 17% regarded their behavior in chat rooms as infidelity.2

Who is cheating online?
Cheating can be defined in different terms: emotional vs. sexual cheating. In one study, sexual infidelity online as ‘hot chatting’ and cybersex. Emotional infidelity online as having formed a deep bond or fallen in love with someone else on the internet. Males were more likely than females to engage in sexual infidelity online. This was also found to be true for people who score high on extraversion. Those who score high on narcissism are more likely to be involved in emotional infidelity online.3

Cheating using social media?
Social media has made it easier to connect with others. Although sites exist specifically designed for the purpose of having affairs, social media seems to ‘fulfill’ this motivation as well. It seems that impulsivity predicts attempting to engage in cheating through social media.4
A study looked at Facebook use and jealousy among young adults. The researchers found that males experienced more jealousy when their romantic partner used the winking emoticon. Females were more jealous when their partners didn’t use any emoticons.5
60% of people have witnessed a relationship break-up caused by emotional infidelity on Facebook.6
Moreover, Facebook is used to look for romantic connections by people both single and in relationships.7

A new problem?
It seems as if we have established clear rules on what constitutes as cheating outside of the internet. But engaging in certain behaviors online tend to still fall in a gray area. As was pointed out by one of the participants in one of the cited studies: “there is nothing physical going on, so I’m not cheating on my spouse”. However, partners do get jealous when their significant other undertakes in romantic behaviors online.
Therefore it is only a matter of time before people establish clearer boundaries what entails as cheating in an online setting. It should also be noted that the internet doesn’t just cause relationship problems, it can also be a place for relationship formation.
1. Kimberly, S. Y., O’Mara, J., & Buchanan, J. (2000). Cybersex and infidelity online: Implications for evaluation and treatment. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 7(10), 59-74.
2. Mileham, B. L. A. (2007). Online infidelity in Internet chat rooms: An ethnographic exploration. Computers in Human Behavior, 23(1), 11-31.
3. Browne, A. (2015). Online Infidelity; Gender, narcissism and extraversion as predictors of behaviour and jealousy responses.
4. Adams, A. N. (2017). Social Networking Sites and Online Infidelity (Doctoral dissertation, Walden University).
5. Hudson, M. B., Nicolas, S. C., Howser, M. E., Lipsett, K. E., Robinson, I. W., Pope, L. J., … & Friedman, D. R. (2015). Examining how gender and emoticons influence Facebook jealousy. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 18(2), 87-92.
6. Nelson, O., & Salawu, A. (2017). Can my Wife be Virtual-Adulterous? An Experiential Study on Facebook, Emotional Infidelity and Self-Disclosure. Journal of International Women’s Studies, 18(2), 166.
7. Drouin, M., Miller, D. A., & Dibble, J. L. (2014). Ignore your partners’ current Facebook friends; beware the ones they add!. Computers in Human Behavior, 35, 483-488.

social sciences

Weight loss programs and science

Many different weight loss fads exist that promise some kind of quick fix. The question is, which of these are allowed to guarantee weight loss to their customers?  There have been many studies to test different programs designed to promote weight loss. In this post, I will list the findings of these types of studies.

  • Researchers looked at Atkins, Zone, Weight Watchers, and Ornish diets. 160 participants were randomly assigned to one of these four different programs. The participants were followed for almost two years. After the first year, the following mean averages were found in terms of loss, 2.1 kg with Atkins, 3.2 kg with Zone, 3.0 kg with Weight Watchers, and 3.3 kg with Ornish (Dansinger et al, 2015). According to WebMD Ornish is created to help people with heart disease lose weight. The focus of this diet is on eating low-fat.
  • Other researchers looked at Atkins, Weight Watchers, Slim-fast, and Rosemary Conley. They found that short-term, Atkins dieters lost the most amount, but long-term all programs proved to be effective (Truby et al, 2006).
  • Different researchers looked at the following programs:  eDiets.com, Health Management Resources, Take Off Pounds Sensibly, OPTIFAST, and Weight Watchers. These researchers found that Weight Watchers’ dieters lost the most weight after two years. They had lost on average of 3.2% of their initial body weight. However, the researchers conclude that the results of all these programs are in fact ‘suboptimal’ in the broad sense (Tsai, & Wadden, 2005).
  • Johnston et al. (2014) conclude that low-carb and low-fat diets can result in a weight loss of 6 kg in months. They found this by looking at different databases containing data on different diet programs.
  • Heshka et al. (2003) looked at the weight loss differences between people who followed a commercial diet program and people who tried to lose weight on their own (self-help). People in the self-help group got access to information related to nutrition but had to figure it out on their own. The researchers found that the people who followed the commercial diet slightly lost more weight that those in the self-help condition.
  • Researchers also looked at low-carb, low-fat, and the Mediterranean diet. The low-carb and the Mediterranean diet ended up in the highest amount of weight loss. However, the authors of the research article conclude that a diet tailored to one’s own specific needs will result in the best outcomes (Shai et al, 2008).

Dansinger, M. L., Gleason, J. A., Griffith, J. L., Selker, H. P., & Schaefer, E. J. (2005). Comparison of the Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers, and Zone diets for weight loss and heart disease risk reduction: a randomized trial. Jama, 293(1), 43-53.
Heshka, S., Anderson, J. W., Atkinson, R. L., Greenway, F. L., Hill, J. O., Phinney, S. D., … & Pi-Sunyer, F. X. (2003). Weight loss with self-help compared with a structured commercial program: a randomized trial. Jama, 289(14), 1792-1798.
Johnston, B. C., Kanters, S., Bandayrel, K., Wu, P., Naji, F., Siemieniuk, R. A., … & Jansen, J. P. (2014). Comparison of weight loss among named diet programs in overweight and obese adults: a meta-analysis. Jama, 312(9), 923-933.
Shai, I., Schwarzfuchs, D., Henkin, Y., Shahar, D. R., Witkow, S., Greenberg, I., … & Tangi-Rozental, O. (2008). Weight loss with a low-carbohydrate, Mediterranean, or low-fat diet. New England Journal of Medicine, 359(3), 229-241.
Truby, H., Baic, S., Fox, K. R., Livingstone, M. B. E., Logan, C. M., Macdonald, I. A., … & Millward, D. J. (2006). Randomised controlled trial of four commercial weight loss programmes in the UK: initial findings from the BBC “diet trials”. Bmj, 332(7553), 1309-1314.
Tsai, A. G., & Wadden, T. A. (2005). Systematic review: an evaluation of major commercial weight loss programs in the United States. Annals of internal medicine, 142(1), 56-66.

Source image.

social sciences

Rise of the Right (Conclusion)

I wrote a paper on this topic as part of a course during my Bachelor in psychology. It has been divided into 4 different posts, links can be found at the bottom of this article.

The factors that seem to have spiked the rise in popularity for right-wing according to previous research: (1) prosperity in a country, (2) socio-economic deprivation, (3) instilling fear through framing in the media by the right, (4) distrusting the current political system, (5) economic and cultural concerns over immigration, and (6) Euroscepticism (summarized in figure 1, see appendix).

In terms of (1) prosperity, Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands are all among the highest in regards to GDP per capita (Eurostat, 2016). In all of these three countries right-wing politicians are gaining more popularity, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, Norbert Hofer in Austria, and  Frauke Petry in Germany. These occurrences fit with results found by Lucassen et al (2012), as explained earlier, countries high in prosperity could view immigrants as a threat. Because they perceive the newcomers to possibly change the situation from which they currently benefit. Though prosperity on country-level has been linked to far-right preferences, Werts et al (2012) looked at individual (2) socio-economic deprivation. These researchers have also found a link between right-wing voting behavior and this particular deprivation.

Moreover, a factor that has influenced the surge in popularity for right-wing parties is (3) media framing, as implied by Yılmaz (2012). The major issues used in their framing techniques seem to be immigration and Euroscepticism. Nigel Farage of the right-wing United Kingdom Independent Party’s (UKIP) caused an uproar in the media by unveiling a poster that displays a stream non-white immigrants. The poster has two different slogans on it: ‘Breaking point: the EU has failed us all’ and ‘we must break free from the EU and take back our country’. So both aforementioned issues are being conveyed through the poster.

A prime example of (4) distrusting the current political system would be the sudden advocation of anti-establishment ideas. These views were shared by Donald Trump in his campaign for presidency in the USA during 2015 and 2016. At a rally in Virginia he expressed the following sentiment: “we are going to replace our failed and corrupt establishment with a new government that serves you, your family, and your country”. However, the same anti-establishment rhetoric is gaining ground in Europe. In particular, a movement in Italy referred to as Movimento 5 Stelle (Five Star Movement), who claim to be anti-establishment.

One of the attributes all articles seem to mention is (5) the fear of immigrants coming to Europe. With the wars going on in Syria, the amount of immigrants applying for asylum in Europe has increased over the last years (Asylum Statistics, 2016). There have been protests by the far-right in several European countries over refugee shelters (Huggler, 2016), which have turned into violent crashes. UKIP’s previous leader, Nigel Farage, has publicly indicated that he does not agree with the UK’s current immigration policies, in a speech during his party’s conference he stated: “this gets to the heart of the immigration policy that UKIP wants, we should not welcome foreign criminal gangs and we must deport those who have committed offences”.

Lastly, (6) Euroscepticism has not been going unnoticed after the referendum on ‘Brexit’ take took place June 23rd, 2016.  On this day Great Britain decided that it would rather leave the European Union (EU) than remain. Other politicians from different EU member states have expressed their concern, discussing the possibility of revoking their membership. For instance, far-right politician Geert Wilders of the Partij van de Vrijheid (Freedom party) has called for a referendum in the Netherlands to leave the EU (Reuters, 2016). In an interview he explained his reasoning behind this statement: “we want be in charge of our own country, our own money, our own borders, and our own immigration policy”.

Taking all of the aforementioned research into consideration, it can be argued that several factors can contribute to a surge in support for right-wing parties in Europe. It is of importance to figure out what causes people to vote for a certain political ideology. It is not my place to argue which ideology is better, however it is essential to be aware of the support for political ideologies within a society. And extremism on both sides of the left-right spectrum could lead to divisions, which may not be beneficial to have a functioning society. To mention a contemporary example, after the 2016 United States Presidential Elections, the amount of verbal and physical attacks increased, targeting specific groups (Dearden, 2016), which seems to create a gaps between those groups. And in Europe, with Brexit as a starting point, it seems that more political parties are become unsatisfied with the unification through the European Union. Therefore it is crucial that all political parties, activists, and supporters stay in dialogue with one another, and not settle it through physical or verbal harassment. This means being aware of standpoints of each political division, and the implications of the policies they advocate.

I wrote a paper on this topic as part of a course during my Bachelor in psychology. It has been divided into 4 different posts.
Introduction
Part 1: What could have triggered the rise in popularity for right-wing parties in Europe?
Part 2: What could have triggered the rise in popularity for right-wing parties in Europe?
Concluding Remarks

Angouri and Wodak (2014). ‘They became big in the shadow of the crisis’ The Greek success story and the rise of the far right. Discourse & Society, 25(4), 540-565.

Asylum Statistics. (2016, April 20). Retrieved December 8, 2016, from Eurotstat, http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Asylum_statistics

Carmines, E. G., & D’Amico, N. J. (2015). The new look in political ideology research. Annual Review of Political Science, 18, 205-216.

Davis, L., & Deole, S. S. (2015). Immigration, Attitudes and the Rise of the Political Right: The Role of Cultural and Economic Concerns over Immigration. Available at SSRN.

Dearden, L. (2016). Donald Trump’s victory followed by wave of hate crime attacks against minorities across US – led by his supporters. Retrieved December 18, 2016, from Independent, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-elections/donald-trump-president-supporters-attack-muslims-hijab-hispanics-lgbt-hate-crime-wave-us-election-a7410166.html

Eurostat (2016). GDP per capita, consumption per capita and price level indices. Retrieved from December 15, 2016, from Eurostat, http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/GDP_per_capita,_consumption_per_capita_and_price_level_indices

Giuliano, P., & Spilimbergo, A. (2014). Growing up in a Recession. The Review of Economic Studies, 81(2), 787-817.

Graham, J., Haidt, J., Koleva, S., Motyl, M., Iyer, R., Wojcik, S. P., & Ditto, P. H. (2012). Moral foundations theory: The pragmatic validity of moral pluralism. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, Forthcoming.

Haidt, J., Graham, J., & Joseph, C. (2009). Above and below left–right: Ideological narratives and moral foundations. Psychological Inquiry, 20, 110-119.

Huggler, J. (2016). Violent clashes break out between asylum seekers and far-Right protesters in eastern Germany. Retrieved December 14, 2016, from Telegraph, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/15/violent-clashes-break-out-between-asylum-seekers-and-far-right-p/

Jost, J. T., Glaser, J., Kruglanski, A. W., & Sulloway, F. J. (2003). Political conservatism as motivated social cognition. Psychological bulletin, 129(3), 339.

Kiess, J., Brähler, E., Schmutzer, G., & Decker, O. (2016). Euroscepticism and Right-wing Extremist Attitudes in Germany: A Result of the ‘Dialectic Nature of Progress’?. German Politics, 1-20.

Lall, M. & Sharma, S.  (2009). Personal growth and training and development. New Dehli: Excel Books.

Lucassen, G., & Lubbers, M. (2012). Who fears what? Explaining far-right-wing preference in Europe by distinguishing perceived cultural and economic ethnic threats. Comparative Political Studies, 45(5), 547-574.

Reuters. (2016). Dutch anti-immigration leader Wilders calls for Dutch referendum on EU membership. Retrieved December 14, 2016, from Reuters, http://www.reuters.com /article/us-britain-eu-wilders-idUSKCN0ZA0HO

Stewart, H., & Mason, R. (2016). Nigel Farage’s anti-migrant poster reported to police. Retrieved december 15, 2016, from The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/16/nigel-farage-defends-ukip-breaking-poster-queue-of-migrants

Werts, H., Scheepers, P., & Lubbers, M. (2012). Euro-scepticism and radical right-wing voting in Europe, 2002–2008: Social cleavages, socio-political attitudes and contextual characteristics determining voting for the radical right. European Union Politics, 1465116512469287.

Yılmaz, F. (2012). Right-wing hegemony and immigration: How the populist far-right achieved hegemony through the immigration debate in Europe. Current sociology, 60(3), 368-381.

social sciences

Rise of the Right (Part 2)

I wrote a paper on this topic as part of a course during my Bachelor in psychology. It has been divided into 4 different posts, links can be found at the bottom of this article.

Angouri and Wodak (2014) looked at the sudden emergence of a far-right political in Greece, the Golden Dawn party. In their research they studied online users’ comments on a news website, The Guardian. Through the analysis of these comments they uncovered what people attributed to the rise of this far-right political party. These researchers found that people mainly blamed the entire political system in Greece. The most mentioned institutes who were to blame seemed to be the IMF and the EU. And often people pointed out that the financial crises, immigrants, and corrupt political leaders were to blame as well. A small portion of users also attributed the rise in popularity of the Golden Dawn to the left. The added value of this particular study is to take people’s perceptions into consideration, to find out what people seem to label as to blame for the rise of the far-right. However the comments that were used in the analysis might have been a vastly specific sample, since it is unclear what triggers people to leave a comment on news site. It is likely that not everyone leaves their opinions in the comment sections, which lamentably results in a selective sample.

Other factors may also indirectly influence the growth of support for right-wing parties. These are concerns over economic and cultural factors, associated with immigration. Davis and Deole (2015) looked at the alignment hypothesis which proposes that cultural and economic factors are detrimental to concern about the impact of these factors related to immigration. The concerns over these factors are linked to right-wing ideology and actual right-wing voting behavior. Four different determinants have found to affect economic concerns in terms of immigration. These concerns are more prevalent in countries with a higher unemployment rate, with lower Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita, less diversity in religion, and cultures that tend to be more collectivistic. So it could be argued that the aforementioned situational factors determine the attitudes toward immigration and in turn spark right-wing voting behavior.

Another factor that might have contributed to the rise of  popularity of right wing ideologies is that people do not feel part of the integration process in Europe. And as a result they will hold views that can be considered anti-immigrant and Eurosceptic. Kiess, Brähler, Schmutzer, and Decker (2016) looked at right-wing attitudes in Germany. These researchers found that those with lower occupational status experience less connection to the integration process with Europe. People with this status included skilled workers and leg workers, they were more likely to support right wing ideologies. These groups are also more likely to scapegoat, putting the blame on others in terms of anti-semitism and anti-immigrant ideas. The same researchers also found a correlation between right-wing extremism and Euroscepticism.

I wrote a paper on this topic as part of a course during my Bachelor in psychology. It has been divided into 4 different posts.
Introduction
Part 1: What could have triggered the rise in popularity for right-wing parties in Europe?
Part 2: What could have triggered the rise in popularity for right-wing parties in Europe?
Concluding Remarks

Angouri and Wodak (2014). ‘They became big in the shadow of the crisis’ The Greek success story and the rise of the far right. Discourse & Society, 25(4), 540-565.

Davis, L., & Deole, S. S. (2015). Immigration, Attitudes and the Rise of the Political Right: The Role of Cultural and Economic Concerns over Immigration. Available at SSRN.

Kiess, J., Brähler, E., Schmutzer, G., & Decker, O. (2016). Euroscepticism and Right-wing Extremist Attitudes in Germany: A Result of the ‘Dialectic Nature of Progress’?. German Politics, 1-20.

social sciences

Rise of the Right (Part 1)

I wrote a paper on this topic as part of a course during my Bachelor in psychology. It has been divided into 4 different posts, links can be found at the bottom of this article.


What could have triggered the rise in popularity for right-wing parties in Europe?

Lucassen and Lubbers (2012) analyzed data from the European Social Survey (ESS) to look at far right voting preferences. First of all, they found that the proportion of the population with a Muslim background in a country, in Europe, did not influence far-right preferences. Second, technocrats experience heightened perceptions of cultural ethnic threat, compared to sociocultural specialists, which results in a higher probability of right-wing voting behavior. In this case technocrats being those with technological knowledge and sociocultural specialists depend on specialized knowledge. In countries with a higher GDP, this fear exists as well, they experience concern over losing acquired wealth. Therefore they are more likely to vote far right, in hopes of keeping the status quo. Unfortunately, this study only had 11 European countries in their analysis. However using GDP to measure a legitimate way to operationalize and measure prosperity.

Werts, Scheepers, and Lubbers (2012) used data from the ESS to look at right-wing voting behavior. Instead of looking economic prosperity this study took the opposite into consideration, socio-economic deprivation. Carrying out a multilevel regression analysis on the data, they found that those experiencing socio-economic deprivation have a higher probability of voting for right-wing parties, due to political distrust. The authors did however, not find an increase in Euroscepticism between 2002 and 2008. Although they speculated that because the economic crises associated with the Euro, this might change. And more countries have become weary of a European unification, which has ultimately led to the winning vote of the Brexit in Great Britain. Furthermore, right-wing parties, such as Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV) in the Netherlands, have publicly voiced Eurosceptic views in the media (Reuters, 2016).

Yılmaz (2012) argues that the popularity of right-wing parties has been increasing since the eighties, and that they have been using anti-immigration rhetoric as their propaganda. The author points out that the emphasis of sharing a common vision and using ‘we’ has created a gap between immigrants and natives. This has caused a hegemonic shift, in which the right supports ‘national identity’. According to Yılmaz, the often re-established link between Islam and terrorism has helped the anti-immigration propaganda. He also points out that the use of language has changed people’s positions on immigration. Religion, Islam in this case, has been made salient and associated with immigrants in turn. Furthermore he argues that Europe has been familiar with conflicts between groups of people for a long time, however these were based on class and identity. And now these social divisions are build on perceived cultural differences. And the populist right has managed to make use of this through framing in media and instilling fear in people by emphasizing cultural differences that are supposedly detrimental to ‘people’s ways of life’. Although Yilmaz (2012) gives a thorough scrutiny of what has contributed to the rise of the right, it would have been interesting to see an actual experiment, to test whether salience of stereotypes leads to more right-wing views.

I wrote a paper on this topic as part of a course during my Bachelor in psychology. It has been divided into 4 different posts.
Introduction
Part 1: What could have triggered the rise in popularity for right-wing parties in Europe?
Part 2: What could have triggered the rise in popularity for right-wing parties in Europe?
Concluding Remarks

Lucassen, G., & Lubbers, M. (2012). Who fears what? Explaining far-right-wing preference in

Europe by distinguishing perceived cultural and economic ethnic threats. Comparative Political

Studies, 45(5), 547-574.

Reuters. (2016). Dutch anti-immigration leader Wilders calls for Dutch referendum on EU

membership. Retrieved December 14, 2016, from Reuters, http://www.reuters.com /article/us

britain-eu-wilders-idUSKCN0ZA0HO

Werts, H., Scheepers, P., & Lubbers, M. (2012). Euro-scepticism and radical right-wing voting in

Europe, 2002–2008: Social cleavages, socio-political attitudes and contextual characteristics

determining voting for the radical right. European Union Politics, 1465116512469287.

Yılmaz, F. (2012). Right-wing hegemony and immigration: How the populist far-right achieved

hegemony through the immigration debate in Europe. Current sociology, 60(3), 368-381.

 

social sciences

Rise of the Right (Introduction)

I wrote a paper on this topic as part of a course during my Bachelor in psychology. It has been divided into 4 different posts, links can be found at the bottom of this article.

When it comes to the division in politics according to the right and left wing, the popularity for either of these two seems to follow a continuous cycle. However, the constant phase shifts in this cycle are not entirely clear, and sometimes difficult to determine. Generally speaking, leftist views include ideas related to liberalism and right wing voters are more likely to support conservative ideas. According to Carmines and D’amico (2015), liberals are more likely to be in favor of redistribution within society through social services, and they are also more supportive of progressive ideas. Whereas right wing supporters tend to be more conservative and hold more traditional views, this also includes that the government intervention should stay minimum.

There are different theories on what shapes people’s political views, these include: life events, values people hold, and dispositions. First of all, in terms of life events, it has been found that individuals who experienced a type of economic crisis (e.g. a recession) are more likely to hold leftist views (Giuliano & Spilimbergo, 2014). Therefore, from this finding, one could argue that life events could influence people’s political views.

Second, in regard to values, Graham et al (2012) developed five different values that can be attributed to both political ideologies, fairness, harm, authority, loyalty, and purity. Liberal ideologues tend to find fairness and caring for others of importance, while conservative views relied on all five values, care, authority, fairness, loyalty, and purity. Nevertheless, how these values are interpreted is different for both sides. Right wing supporters, or conservatives, see fairness as not breaking the law, but they are less bothered by the equability (Haidt, Graham, Joseph, 2009).

Third, apart from the life events people endured or the fundamental values they hold, there are more important dimension to how people’s political beliefs could be shaped. Research has found that certain aspects of disposition could ultimately influence people’s stances on important issues. For instance, it has been found conservatism is linked to intolerance to ambiguity and heightened perception of a dangerous world (Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski, Sulloway, 2013). The same study found right-wing authoritarianism to be negatively correlated to openness to experience. Those who score high on openness to experience might be more interested in learning about new cultures (Lall & Sharma, 2009). Thus an individual’s disposition can be a factor in their political views.

Largely, there seems to be a consensus that right-wing politics are gaining ground, with some, more than often, controversial right-wing candidates gaining popularity in a myriad of countries. These include Donald Trump in the United States, Marine Le Pen in France, Norbert Hofer in Austria, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, and Frauke Petry in Germany. Among these right-wing politicians there seems to be at least one similarity, and that is their stance on immigration policies. Aside from the three dimensions mentioned that could influence people’s left or right wing preferences, there could be other underlying processes that sparked new popularity for right-wing parties. What could have triggered the rise in popularity for right-wing parties? In this review, recent research will be explored to find answers to the aforementioned question.

I wrote a paper on this topic as part of a course during my Bachelor in psychology. It has been divided into 4 different posts.
Introduction
Part 1: What could have triggered the rise in popularity for right-wing parties in Europe?
Part 2: What could have triggered the rise in popularity for right-wing parties in Europe?
Concluding Remarks

Carmines, E. G., & D’Amico, N. J. (2015). The new look in political ideology research. Annual Review of Political Science, 18, 205-216.

Giuliano, P., & Spilimbergo, A. (2014). Growing up in a Recession. The Review of Economic Studies, 81(2), 787-817.

Graham, J., Haidt, J., Koleva, S., Motyl, M., Iyer, R., Wojcik, S. P., & Ditto, P. H. (2012). Moral foundations theory: The pragmatic validity of moral pluralism. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, Forthcoming.

Jost, J. T., Glaser, J., Kruglanski, A. W., & Sulloway, F. J. (2003). Political conservatism as motivated social cognition. Psychological bulletin, 129(3), 339.

Lall, M. & Sharma, S.  (2009). Personal growth and training and development. New Dehli: Excel Books.

social sciences

Why do we sleep?

Sleep is one of the heavily debated topics in different scientific fields, as although there is much known, much of it remains a bit of a mystery in some aspects. Sleep has been found to influence many of our waking behaviors. And a lack of sleep can ultimately be fatal.

Sleeping is good for the brain: better memory
There are several theories on why humans and other animals need sleep. In terms of humans, there is the synaptic homeostasis hypothesis. This hypothesis focusses on the synapses in our body, which can be simplified as the connection between two nerve cells. The synapses between these cells enable signals to pass through, thus a message can pass from one nerve cell to another. These synapses play a big role in regards to memory. When we’re awake we constantly receive information about our surroundings, whereas, during sleep, this isn’t the case. Thus during wakefulness synaptic strength increases, and during sleep homeostasis takes place.
Homeostasis is the regulation in our bodies to keep things constant. For instance, the human body ensures that the temperature is about 37°C. This regulation system is also active in synaptic strength, in which sleep is an important factor. The benefits of this are better memory and learning.
Thus to regulate the synaptic system, sleep is needed to downscale the synaptic strength that has been built up during the day. This system is very energy efficient (Tononi, & Cirelli, 2006).

What is REM sleep and why do we need it?
Rapid Eye Movement sleep is a phase of sleep in which the eyes rapidly and randomly move around. What is interesting about this phase is that people are likely to dream during this time. And brain waves during REM are similar to waves associated with being awake. In order to test the function of REM sleep research is often times carried out on animals such as rats. These animals are deprived of REM sleep and, for instance, put in maze studies. And usually, the results indicate that REM sleep is associated with memory (Rasch, & Born, 2013).


Another theory on REM sleep is that it might be related to protoconsciousness. First, there is primary consciousness which is made up of emotions and perception. And there is secondary consciousness, which is related to language. Examples of this form of consciousness are self-awareness, abstract thinking, and metacognition. These two types of consciousness are different in three different stages we go through each day, being awake and being asleep (REM-sleep vs non-REM sleep). The amount of REM sleep peaks while in the womb, and slowly decreases over a lifetime. The possible reason for this peak in the womb could be due to limited external input. REM sleep then helps to build sensorimotor integration without the presence of this input. Sensorimotor integration is important in creating a unified system of neurons. Thus during sleep and dreaming, primary consciousness (protoconsciousness) is present, we move through a virtual world (perception) and experience emotions. Secondary consciousness is experienced while awake or during a lucid dream. Lucid dreaming is when one is aware that he/she is dreaming and in most cases can consciously alter their dreams. Different parts of the brain are active during these two types of consciousness (Hobson, 2009).
Aside from this, homeothermic animals (includes humans) need to get enough sleep in order to maintain weight and body temperature.
Hobson, J. A. (2009). REM sleep and dreaming: towards a theory of protoconsciousness. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 10(11), 803-813.
Rasch, B., & Born, J. (2013). About sleep’s role in memory. Physiological reviews, 93(2), 681-766.
Tononi, G., & Cirelli, C. (2006). Sleep function and synaptic homeostasis. Sleep medicine reviews, 10(1), 49-62.

social sciences

Evolution of language: why did humans start talking to each other?

200,000 years ago when the Homo Erectus disappeared and the Homo Sapiens was the newest species in the Hominids line, language wasn’t the same as it is today. There have been theories that development of language is linked with genetic changes. Although it is sometimes claimed that evolution takes millions of years, this usually isn’t the case. An example of short-term evolution is lactose digestion in humans of adult age in Europe. These same Europeans were likely to be lactose intolerant before they actively started to domesticate animals for milk production (Beja-Pereira, et al. 2003). Breeding for the purpose of attaining cow milk started about 8,000 years ago and in that short period of time genes linked to lactose digestion has increased in the European population.

Adaptation
Language, as it exists today,  is most likely a product of years of evolution. At least, this is what Pinker (2003) theorizes, he postulates that language is an adaptation for socially interdependent lifestyles. He points out that the use of language is a universal phenomenon across all societies. And children go through universal stages of learning a language. And in communities without a common language or deaf communities, language or sign language will spontaneously emerge (e.g. lingua franca or creole languages). He makes an interesting point that language can be used to share information with others and that expertise makes it possible for us to live in a wide range of habitats.

Social world
Dunbar (2003) discusses language being a tool to create bonds among people in larger groups. Thus language wasn’t a device to convey information about the physical world, but the social world instead. He argues that the evolution of language might have been a long process, which started off with primates making contact calls to other group members. And after this process, the environment pushed humans to adapt by being part of large social groups. In which, of course, the exchange of social information becomes of importance. Before language, the only way to connect to others is to physically groom each person individually, which is very time-consuming behavior, if done in large groups. However, with the use of language, it’s easier to talk to several others at once.
Aside from language, singing is also an important tool in large groups. The author points out that for singing language isn’t necessarily needed. The act of communal synchronized vocalizations is enough to stimulate endogenous opioids (e.g. endorphins, which creates feelings of happiness). This will make humans feel more positive toward their singing companions, and is therefore beneficial is social contact in large groups.

Archaeological evidence
Another important aspect of the emergence of language among the hominids is the ability to talk. Several organs are needed to do so, including the brain, the throat, hyoid, hypoglossal canal, and the spinal cord. And looking at behaviors and acts carried out by these hominids – hunting, creating tools, burials, migration, art – one could argue that symbols were needed to engage in these (Davidson, 2003).

Biological evidence
Up until now we are convinced that the Australopithecines had no language, so it must have emerged somewhere along the hominid line. In terms of the beginning of language, ideas exist that it didn’t start off with words, but with holophrases. It has been proposed that the emergence of syntax in language started about 90,000 years ago. Furthermore, mirror neurons have been deemed important for learning a language. Neurons are nerve cells that fire, for instance, when someone performs a behavior. However, it has been found that these same neurons also fire when we see someone perform that behavior. So this is also the case when we see someone pronounce a word. And in terms of genetics, while the FOXP2 gene was promptly dubbed the gene for language, it is not entirely clear which specific function it serves (Bickerton, 2007).

Beja-Pereira, A., Luikart, G., England, P. R., Bradley, D. G., Jann, O. C., Bertorelle, G., … & Erhardt, G. (2003). Gene-culture coevolution between cattle milk protein genes and human lactase genes. Nature genetics, 35(4), 311-313.
Bickerton, D. (2007). Language evolution: A brief guide for linguists. Lingua, 117(3), 510-526.
Davidson, I. (2003) The archaeological evidence of language origins: States of art. In Language Evolution (Christiansen, M.H. and Kirby, S., eds) Oxford University Press
Dunbar, R. (
2003) The origin and subsequent evolution of language. In Language Evolution (Christiansen, M.H. and Kirby, S., eds) Oxford University Press
Pinker, S. (2003) Language as an adaptation to the cognitive niche. In Language Evolution (Christiansen, M.H. and Kirby, S., eds) Oxford University Press
Source image.

social sciences

Can your menstrual cycle affect weight loss?

During a menstrual cycle hormone levels constantly change. And since hormones affect your metabolism, it wouldn’t be strange to assume that it could affect your weight loss efforts. But first, it would be of importance to understand the different phases of the cycle. The menstrual cycle can be divided into two separate cycles, there is the ovarian cycle and the uterine cycle. To better illustrate the time frame in which each phase takes place, I will be basing these of a 28-day cycle. However, I would like to note that cycle length and regularities are different for each individual and that many factors, including stress, diet, and drugs, can influence these.

What happens during your menstrual cycle?
Ovarian cycle. 
This cycle starts with the follicular phase, in which the ovarian follicles prepare to release an egg. This phase is roughly 14 days and halfway through (day 7) there will be an increase estrogen levels. Around the 14th day of the cycle, ovulation takes place, this is when an egg is released from the ovaries. This is when females are fertile and can get pregnant. After the follicular phase, the luteal phase kicks in. During this part of the cycle progesterone levels increase. The luteal phase is the part of the cycle during which women might experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS) (Biggs, & Demuth, 2011).
Uterine cycle. This cycle starts off with menstruation, during this time the inner lining of the uterus is shed. Afterward, the proliferative phase takes place, in which the lining of the uterus grows due to estrogen. And lastly, during the secretory phase, the progesterone levels increase and facilitates possible implementation of the blastocyst (this is the clump of cells formed 5 days after fertilization).

Do you burn more calories while on your period?
First of all, it is important to know what the basal metabolic rate (BMR) is. This is the amount of energy needed for a person to stay alive while at rest. BMR can be measured with calories as units of energy. And a calorie is a measurement of energy that is required to increase the temperature of water by 1 °C. You can calculate your BMR by using online calculators that will give you an estimation based on your height, weight, age, and gender. However, on top of your BMR, you also use calories to carry out your daily activities. So the total amount of calories you burn each day is actually higher than your BMR. But do you end up burning more calories during any time of your menstrual cycle?
1. Bisdee, James, & Shaw, (1989) found that the BMR is lowest during the late follicular phase and highest in late luteal phase. They found an increase of 6.1%, to illustrate what this might look like, here’s an example: if your BMR is 1500 calories, this would mean that your BMR is roughly 1592 calories. A difference of about 90 calories is equivalent to a small banana.
2. Different researchers found that the BMR decreased during menstruation, and was lowest a week before ovulation. From that point, the BMR would increase until the next menstruation (Solomon, Kurzer, & Calloway, 1982).
3. Webb (1986) found an increase of 8-16% in energy expenditure during the luteal phase (so after ovulation).

Do you retain more water during any phase of your cycle?
Symptoms such as fluid retention (and swollen breasts) are often talked about in regards to the menstrual cycle. Faratian, et al (1984) found that participants experienced bloating during PMS, however, actual body weight did not increase. Reid and Yen (1983) also point out that women report lower abdominal bloating, but that it rarely manifests in higher body weight. O’Brien, Selby, and Symonds, 1980 found that the participants did retain water and on average did increase in body mass, although, they did not find any consistent weight gain.

Does menstruation affect your cravings?
Gong, Garrel, and Calloway (1989) found a decrease in food intake during ovulation and an increase in the luteal phase. The intake per day was about 214 calories higher during the luteal phase than the follicular phase. And this might fit the idea that people experience more cravings during PMS, as it’s experienced during the luteal phase. Different researchers found similar results, an increase in energy and fat intake 10 days before menstruation (Tarasuk, & Beation, 1991). Lyon, et al (1989) also found a fall in food intake during ovulation. And many other studies also confirm an increase during the luteal stage (Buffenstein, Poppitt, McDevitt, & Prentice, 1995; Dalvit 1981; Pliner, & Fleming, 1983).

Can exercise affect the menstrual cycle? Or can the menstrual cycle affect exercise?
Bonen, et al (1979) found that the ovarian hormones in untrained individuals increased, but for trained individuals, nothing changed. However, it is difficult to interpret these results and to claim that this can have implications. Aganoff and Boyle (1994) found that individuals that regularly exercise score lower on negative mood affect and pain. Nicklas, Hackney, and Sharp (1989) found that performance and muscle glycogen content was enhanced during the luteal phase of the cycle. The luteal phase is the stage before menstruation. However, de Jonge (2003) reviewed different articles on this topic and concluded that the menstrual cycle does not influence performance or maximal oxygen consumption. Several studies have indicated that regular exercise can affect menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea) experienced during menses. Regular exercise could aid in less dysmenorrhea (Abbaspour, Rostami, & Najjar, 2006; Golomb, Solidum, & Warren 1998); Hightower, 1998).

Do all of these scientific findings apply to me?
It seems as if the menstrual cycle has a small to no effect on calorie burning, weight gain, and exercise. Therefore these results should be considered with caution.
The idea behind scientific methodology is always to ensure that results are statistically significant and reliably measured. If these main principles are met, the results you found in a sample can be generalized to a population. But anyone can be an outlier that does not fit the findings. Sometimes researchers do find significant results, but the effect size might be very small. This might mean that the findings might be negligible when applied to daily life situations. It is also imperative to emphasize that many studies on the menstrual cycle do not have big samples of participants. These types of experiments might need constant measurement and screening of participants. Participants also have to stick to a set diet and might have to be sedentary during the experiment to cancel out any unwanted effects that food intake and exercise can create. These obligations make it difficult (and possibly more expensive) to test bigger samples. Unfortunately, smaller samples are detrimental to the overall validity of a study.

Tips

  • Be aware of the fact that water retention might affect your numbers on the scale. Hormones and specific foods (high sodium intake) can make it seem as if you gained a lot of weight in a short period of time. If you suddenly drastically see your weight change, it is highly likely due to gaining or losing water weight. You can try to lose water weight by drinking more water or exercising (sweating it out).
  • If you track your weight loss by measuring yourself (using a scale) it might be a good idea to figure out when you tend to retain water. If you get demotivated by the numbers on the scale going up, you might want to skip tracking yourself that week.
  • Hormones can affect your cravings. If you tend to overeat during any part of your cycle, calculate this into your weight loss schedule. You might want to adjust your goals and accept that it might take longer than first anticipated. Not being able to meet your goals can be demotivating, so if you are just not able to lose the amount you had in mind, readjust! To quote Confucius: it doesn’t matter how slowly you go, as long as you don’t stop!
  • Exercising during your menstruation shouldn’t be a problem. It might even help in relieving some of the pain and uncomfortableness associated with menstruation. However, if you prefer to skip exercise because the pain is unbearable and is keeping you bedridden, that is completely fine as well. Though, if exercise is part of your weight loss strategy, motivate yourself to continue once the pain and uncomfortableness are gone.

Abbaspour, Z., Rostami, M., & Najjar, S. H. (2006). The effect of exercise on primary dysmenorrhea. Journal of Research in Health sciences, 6(1), 26-31.
Aganoff, J. A., & Boyle, G. J. (1994). Aerobic exercise, mood states and menstrual cycle symptoms. Journal of psychosomatic research, 38(3), 183-192.
Biggs, W. S., & Demuth, R. H. (2011). Premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. American family physician, 84(8).
Bisdee, J. T., James, W. P. T., & Shaw, M. A. (1989). Changes in energy expenditure during the menstrual cycle. British Journal of Nutrition, 61(02), 187-199.
Bonen, A., Ling, W. Y., MacIntyre, K. P., Neil, R., McGrail, J. C., & Belcastro, A. N. (1979). Effects of exercise on the serum concentrations of FSH, LH, progesterone, and estradiol. European journal of applied physiology and occupational physiology, 42(1), 15-23.
Buffenstein, R., Poppitt, S. D., McDevitt, R. M., & Prentice, A. M. (1995). Food intake and the menstrual cycle: a retrospective analysis, with implications for appetite research. Physiology & behavior, 58(6), 1067-1077.
Dalvit, S. P. (1981). The effect of the menstrual cycle on patterns of food intake. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 34(9), 1811-1815.
Faratian, B., Gaspar, A., O’Brien, P. M. S., Johnson, I. R., Filshie, G. M., & Prescott, P. (1984). Premenstrual syndrome: Weight, abdominal swelling, and Perceived body image. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology, 150(2), 200-204.
Golomb, L. M., Solidum, A. A., & Warren, M. P. (1998). Primary dysmenorrhea and physical activity. Medicine & Science in sports & exercise, 30(6), 906-909.
Gong, E. J., Garrel, D., & Calloway, D. H. (1989). Menstrual cycle and voluntary food intake. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 49(2), 252-258.
Hightower, M. (1998). Effects of exercise participation on menstrual pain and symptoms. Women & health, 26(4), 15-27.
de Jonge, X. A. J. (2003). Effects of the menstrual cycle on exercise performance. Sports Medicine, 33(11), 833-851.
Lyons, P. M., Truswell, A. S., Mira, M., Vizzard, J., & Abraham, S. F. (1989). Reduction of food intake in the ovulatory phase of the menstrual cycle. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 49(6), 1164-1168.
Nicklas, B. J., Hackney, A. C., & Sharp, R. L. (1989). The menstrual cycle and exercise: performance, muscle glycogen, and substrate responses. International journal of sports medicine, 10(04), 264-269.
O’Brien, P. M., Selby, C., & Symonds, E. M. (1980). Progesterone, fluid, and electrolytes in premenstrual syndrome. Br Med J, 280(6224), 1161-1163.
Pliner, P., & Fleming, A. S. (1983). Food intake, body weight, and sweetness preferences over the menstrual cycle in humans. Physiology & Behavior, 30(4), 663-666.
Solomon, S. J., Kurzer, M. S., & Calloway, D. H. (1982). Menstrual cycle and basal metabolic rate in women. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 36(4), 611-616.
Reid, R. L., & Yen, S. S. C. (1983). The premenstrual syndrome. Clinical obstetrics and gynecology, 26(3), 710-718.
Tarasuk, V., & Beaton, G. H. (1991). Menstrual-cycle patterns in energy and macronutrient intake. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 53(2), 442-447.
Webb, P. (1986). 24-hour energy expenditure and the menstrual cycle. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 44(5), 614-619.

Source menstrual cycle diagram.